Economy

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Scat, CAT: Gov. Edwards' controversial tax proposal effectively killed in House

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 2:16 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards' controversial tax proposal, opposed by business interests and many Republicans, effectively died today in the Louisiana House.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards' controversial tax proposal, opposed by business interests and many Republicans, effectively died today in the Louisiana House.

State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, voluntarily pulled his controversial corporate activities tax (CAT) bill from consideration Tuesday following a day and a half of testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means in which various business interests and most of the Republican committee members expressed staunch opposition.

Because Jones voluntarily deferred his House Bill 628, it can be brought before the committee again. It is Gov. John Bel Edwards revenue-raising centerpiece to balance the budget.

“This [discussion] has brought us to a point of catharsis,” Jones said after explaining his conversations with political leaders were ongoing.

At a press conference held by Edwards after the meeting, the governor said the legislation aimed to restore fairness. He said 80 percent of Louisiana’s corporations do not pay any income tax.

“The truth is, the fate of that bill was decided long before it became available,” Edwards said.

The committee also deferred the four other bills on the agenda, including Jones’ bills regarding a minimum corporate income tax and a Louisiana margins tax, as well as legislation by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, levying an oil refinery tax and a general business tax.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Bills exempting feminine hygiene products and diapers from state sales tax move to full Senate

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 3:48 PM

State Sen. JP Morrell.
  • State Sen. JP Morrell.

The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs on Monday sent to the full Senate two bills Senate Bill 24 and Senate Bill 27, both proposed by state Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, which would exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from state sales tax. The first would seek the exemption by statute and the second by constitutional amendment.

Under the current state law, diapers and feminine hygiene products are subject to the current 5 percent sales tax rate until June 30, 2018, and a 4 percent tax rate thereafter. The state already has exemptions for food for home consumption, residential utilities and prescription drugs.

Morrell said he feels it is “immoral” to tax items that not only affect some of the state’s low- income populations, but also that are not optional, adding, “This is really an issue that’s bothered me for quite some time.”

SB27 would put the measure to a vote of the people, which requires a two-thirds majority approval.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bill would raise gasoline tax by 17 cents a gallon across Louisiana

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 6:19 PM

CREATIVE COMMONS/MIKE MOZART
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/MIKE MOZART

As he had promised, State Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, filed House Bill 632 today, which would increase Louisiana’s gas tax by 17 cents per gallon and raise an estimated $510 million annually for the state’s highways and bridges.

Off the floor, Carter said, “Across Louisiana, our infrastructure is crumbling. The citizens of this state are sick of being stuck in traffic, and they want bold solutions that improve safety, quality of life and economic productivity, which this bill provides.”

Louisiana motorists now are paying 38.4 cents per gallon, including 20 cents in state taxes.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

At roundtable April 18, housing advocates discuss access to homeownership for communities of color

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 1:00 PM

FRANCISCO ANZOLA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • FRANCISCO ANZOLA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

At a roundtable discussing racial wealth inequality April 18, speakers from several local housing advocacy and neighborhood groups will propose solutions to a persistent problem: lack of access to homeownership for communities of color. According to a release about the event, just 43 percent of African-American households and 33 percent of Latino households own their homes, as compared to 54 percent of white and Asian households.

In discussions of New Orleans' Jiffy-Pop housing market, these kinds of basic structural inequities sometimes go un- or under-discussed. Even in more functional real estate markets, families of color still contend with what economists call the "wealth gap," or the difference between their net worth (cash, property, etc. minus debts and liabilities) and that of white families. Factors such as lack of access to inherited money and property, the racial wage gap and higher levels of debt (often due to predatory lending) all contribute to the wealth gap. A recent Institute for Policy Studies report found that at current growth rates, it will take black families 228 years to reach the same levels of wealth that white families enjoy today.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Gov. Edwards addresses the opening of the 2017 Louisiana legislative session

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 4:08 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards had a message for Republicans opposing his plans for tax reform: Chart a new path. The call to action came during his State of the State address – the second of Edwards’ tenure – that opened the Louisiana State Legislature’s 2017 regular session.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards had a message for Republicans opposing his plans for tax reform: Chart a new path. The call to action came during his State of the State address – the second of Edwards’ tenure – that opened the Louisiana State Legislature’s 2017 regular session.

Gov. John Bel Edwards had a message for Republicans opposing his plans for tax reform: Chart a new path.

The call to action came during his State of the State address — the second of Edwards’ tenure – that opened the 60-day Louisiana State Legislature’s 2017 regular session. Much of the speech centered on the governor’s proposals for tax reform, which includes eliminating one penny of the five-cent sales tax and implementing a commercial activity tax (CAT) for businesses.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Editorial: Legislative forecast: more gridlock

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 1:40 PM

CREATIVE COMMONS/401KCALCULATOR.ORG
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/401kcalculator.org

State lawmakers return to Baton Rouge next week for an annual session that by law must focus mostly but not exclusively on fiscal matters. This year’s session, like most in recent memory, seems destined to be marked by partisan squabbles over the state’s taxing and spending policies. If history is any indicator — and it usually is — Louisiana taxpayers should not expect much progress toward the oft-stated but elusive goal of fiscal reform. Kicking the proverbial can down the road always seems to be the Legislature’s default course of action.

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Number of women in Louisiana state legislature still low, survey says

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 12:55 PM

Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, testifies during the 2017 special legislative session on the House floor. Behind her is House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia.  Stokes is one of the 22 women lawmakers in the 2017 session.  They comprise only 15 percent of the 144 legislative seats, well below the national average. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, testifies during the 2017 special legislative session on the House floor. Behind her is House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia. Stokes is one of the 22 women lawmakers in the 2017 session. They comprise only 15 percent of the 144 legislative seats, well below the national average.


The current National Conference of State Legislatures’ list of states ranked by percentage of women in the state legislature shows Louisiana has improved to 44th place after being dead last in 2015.

That year, Louisiana had 13 women in the House and four in the Senate. In 2016, those numbers had increased to 17 and five, respectively. The 22 women represent 15 percent of the total delegates.

State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, noted that more than 50 percent of Louisiana’s population is female. To only have five out of 39 senators is, as she put it, “wholly inadequate.”

“Many women are beginning to step up and address some of the issues and concerns that our publics are faced with, just as men have done over the years,” says Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, who was part of the 2016 increase.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Morrell prefiles bill to exclude tampons and diapers from state sales tax

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 5:22 PM

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, wants to exclude tampons and other women's hygiene products, as well as small diapers, from state sales tax.
  • State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, wants to exclude tampons and other women's hygiene products, as well as small diapers, from state sales tax.
A New Orleans lawmaker wants to exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products, as well as diapers, from the Louisiana sales tax. But pre-session blowback to Senate Bill 24 is already starting, he says.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, says some males already are arguing against the prefiled proposal as a “special handout” to women, and say it's only fair their beer and fast food be exempt as well.

If signed into law, SB24 would ban state sales tax from tampons, menstrual pads, sanitary napkins, panty liners, menstrual sponges, menstrual cups and cloth and disposable diapers size 7 and smaller.

And the beer argument is only one of many that Morrell expects, predicting he will encounter “plenty” of opposition: “No one wants to talk about it because it’s uncomfortable,” he says.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What's Equal Pay Day, and why does it matter? A quick explainer

Posted By on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 11:47 AM

IMAGES MONEY / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • IMAGES MONEY / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

Today is Equal Pay Day, a symbolic date meant to highlight the wage gap between men and women. On this day, women's advocates point to problems with pay as one of the key drivers of inequality between the sexes. Women's lower wages (by some counts, 67 cents on the dollar in Louisiana) can't be explained away by industry, occupation, personal choices or education level; a recent Atlantic article found that pay equity problems appear dramatically even among Ivy League graduates with white-collar careers, such as finance or law.

The date for Equal Pay Day falls on the day when women's wages catch up to men's wages from the previous year. For example, to make the same amount of money as a man in 2016, women would have had to work for all of 2016, plus an additional three months and three days. It's a provocative illustration of the problem, for if women have to log hundreds of extra hours just to keep pace, that means they're (we're) perpetually in the hole.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Edwards' CAT finally out of the bag: the governor and the proposed 'commercial activity tax'

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 1:56 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards.

A lot has already been said about Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed “commercial activity tax,” or CAT, but the early rumblings against it are nothing compared to what’s to come. The governor undoubtedly knows that, which explains why he quickly promised to find ways to reduce the tax’s adverse impact on low-margin businesses.

Edwards presented his new tax last week as part of a “budget stabilization plan” that he hopes lawmakers will adopt in the annual session that begins next Monday, April 10. This year’s session, like others in odd-numbered years, will focus heavily though not exclusively on fiscal matters. Because the “temporary” sales tax increase adopted last year expires in 2018 — a “non-fiscal” year for legislative sessions — this year’s session presents an opportunity for Edwards and lawmakers to adopt long-term fiscal reform.

The chances of that happening appear to be even slimmer than the likelihood of the Republican-controlled (and very partisan) House of Representatives embracing Edwards’ newfangled CAT, which is actually a gross receipts tax — that is, a tax on businesses’ gross earnings. Even companies that lose money would pay an income tax on their gross receipts.

Only four other states levy such a tax, which is just one of the reasons it faces long odds of passage in its present form.

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