Sunday, May 26, 2024

Louisiana lawmakers will take up tax cut, education savings account bills

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

Louisiana lawmakers have prefiled dozens of bills six weeks out from 2023 Regular Legislative Session, including several that failed to become law in prior sessions.

State legislators are preparing for a 2023 session that will begin on April 10 and run through June 8, with about 18 bills prefiled in the Senate and nearly four dozen in the House.

The proposed legislation offers a preview of priorities that range from a repeal of the state’s corporate franchise tax, to efforts to expand school choice, to benefit increases for state retirees.

Bills submitted to the upper chamber include Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, to repeal the corporate franchise tax and provide a means to resolve outstanding tax credits.

Allain has also sponsored Senate Bill 2, a constitutional amendment to phase out the tax on inventory and establish the maximum allowable exemption for the industrial property tax exemption program.

SB2 would cap the maximum exemption at 60% of the assessed valuation for ad valorem taxes imposed by school boards, and at 80% for “any other local taxing authority.”

Other Senate tax bills include Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, to exempt certain real estate investment trusts from the corporate franchise tax, and Senate Bill 10, also sponsored by Foil, to increase the individual income tax exemption for certain education savings accounts for tuition expenses at elementary and secondary schools.

Senate President Patrick Page Cortex, R-Lafayette, and Sen. Ed Price, D-Gonzalez, are also co-sponsoring Senate Bill 18 to provide benefit increases with funding for retirees, beneficiaries, and survivors of state retirement systems.

In the House, Rep. Rhonda Butler, R-Evangeline, reintroduced legislation to create education scholarship accounts for students with disabilities to attend nonpublic schools, House Bill 9, which mirrors a measure approved by lawmakers but vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2022.

Last year’s legislation, House Bill 194, was backed by the Pelican Institute with broad support from both Democrats and Republicans, but Edwards argued it and other education savings account bills “Would potentially divert Minimum Foundation Program funds (state education funding) for students to attend non-public schools.” He alleged in his veto message the scholarships would “allow the children of wealthy parents to attend private schools subsidized by taxpayer dollars.”

Other education bills include House Bill 12, sponsored by Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, to prohibit students with reading deficiencies from advancing to the fourth grade, and House Bill 32, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Jefferson, to increase income tax deductions for elementary and secondary education like tuition and homeschooling expenses from $5,000 to $6,000 per year.

The former cleared the House last session but did not gain approval in the Senate.

Rep. Candace Newell, D-New Orleans, also reintroduced legislation to regulate marijuana that failed to gain traction in 2022.

Newell’s reintroduced House Bill 24 would decriminalize the possession and distribution of marijuana contingent upon the legislature adopting a regulatory system and sales tax. Newell also introduced House Bill 17 to propose a regulatory framework for marijuana.

Other prefiled bills in the lower chamber involve changes to the state’s Mega Projects Leverage Fund, a measure to outlaw employment discrimination based on gender identity, immunization requirements in schools, gaming revenue reports, and carbon dioxide sequestration projects, among other issues.

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