Live updates at 1 p.m.: Legislative logjam freed; House to start moving tax increases _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- State Representatives Sam Jones, D-Franklin, left and Bryan Adams, R-Gretna, right, talk business before the start of the afternoon House session of the Louisiana Special Legislative Session Wednesday.

The Louisiana House is expected Thursday afternoon to finally take up tax increase bills to bridge the gap between the state’s obligations and the lack of enough money to pay them.

Legislators are meeting in special session to find ways to overcome a deficit of about $900 million for the fiscal year that ends in four months on June 30. The next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is another $2 billion in the red.

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The Senate Finance committee, as expected, approved Thursday morning House Bill 122, which would increase cuts in government a bit more than the service reductions recommended by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Action on that measure, it now goes to full Senate for debate, probably over the weekend, was a prerequisite for House Republicans to vote on additional tax increase measures.

The House agenda includes a long list of possible tax increases and changes to the tax code that could raise revenues for state government.

The main measure is House Bill 14, which would increase the cigarette tax by 22 cents to $1.08 per pack. It would raise $16 million for this year and $46 million next year. The tobacco industry is neutral on the measure, to avoid bigger tax increases in the future by Edwards. But the bill has been delayed a couple times this week because Republicans said they wanted the Finance Committee to act first on HB122. The cigarette tax needs bipartisan support because it requires at least 70 votes — a two-thirds vote — in the 105-member House.

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