Senate President: Individual income changes will be ‘tough’

With a variety of issues on the agenda for second special session of the Louisiana Legislature, ranging from sales tax exemptions to corporate taxes, Senate President John Alario believes the most endangered part of the governor’s call may involve the personal taxes paid by citizens of the state.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is proposing changes to individual income tax rates and certain deductions.

“That’s certainly going to be tough,” Alario told LaPolitics in a recent interview. “The speaker of the House tells me he’s still getting a lot of pushback from his members about any kind of income tax increase.”

The special session must end by June 23 at midnight, giving lawmakers roughly two and a half weeks to plug a $600 million shortfall in next fiscal year’s budget. While Edwards want lawmakers to raise $600 million, lawmakers in the Senate have offered up a figure closer to $450 million and many representatives predict the House may only agree to $300 million or so in new revenue.

Alario said the full $600 million will be difficult to achieve.

“I think it’ll have to be something less,” he said. “I don’t think there’s time for our legislators to raise that much in additional revenue.”

Funding the popular TOPS scholarship program seems to be a priority in both chambers, with the program currently sitting on half of its required $300 million budget. The state’s safety net hospitals are short somewhere between $50 million to $100 million as well.

Then there’s everything else — practically every corner of state government faces cuts in the budget that was passed during the regular session.

“I think we’ll have to gather all that information and see what is absolutely necessary and we’ll just try to find some kind of way to raise enough revenues to cover just that,” Alario said.

Pro-JBE group locked, loadedWhile Rebuild Louisiana plans to be on TV by this week with a Medicaid expansion commercial supporting Gov. John Bel Edwards, organizers say they are looking beyond this tumultuous political year and planning to stay active through 2019.

Trey Ourso, the director of the dark money nonprofit, said Rebuild has played quietly in the regular session this year with targeted digital ads and social media on the minimum wage and equal pay issues.

It also published an Edwards-friendly poll earlier this year. Those kinds of efforts will continue into the second special session, but this week’s broadcast launch will give the group it’s highest dosage of visibility yet.

There is a big push on the fundraising side too. Roughly 40 donors attended an event last month at the City Club in Baton Rouge, where Gov. Edwards spoke.Candidates emerge In House special electionsThere are now at least three potential candidates either looking at or being encouraged to run in the soon-to-be-open House District 85, which is being vacated by Rep. Bryan Adams, R-Gretna.

Thrown in the mix are two attorneys — Jefferson Parish School Board Member Mark Morgan, a Republican, and Gretna City Councilman Joe Morino, who is said to have district-level support ready to go. There’s also Stephen Leonard, a Republican real estate agent who lost to Adams in a previous House race.

In the neighboring House District 80 in Jefferson Parish, where Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, is stepping down, UNO professor Polly Thomas has been seen working the Capitol crowd.

No other names have surfaced. It may have helped that Thomas dropped out of a legislative race last fall to endorse her opponent, Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie. In a brief interview this morning, Appel said he has already endorsed Thomas for the House District 80 seat.North Louisiana Delegation taking shapeThanks to a resolution passed by Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, this session there is now an official North Louisiana Delegation in the House.

Efforts are moving much slower in the Senate, but the piney north folks in the lower chamber are making progress with their new outfit.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, has taken a lead role on coordinating efforts and regular weekly meetings are being held. The next moves will be to elect officers for the delegation and draft bylaws. But hiring an executive director may be a ways off.

“I would love to see at one time us get together and get behind hiring someone,” Carmody said.

Right now the real value for north Louisiana legislators in the House has been information-based. Asking questions as a group has facilitated quicker responses — and it has kept a group of lawmakers with common interests on the same page.Rantz Will Not Shave His GoateeIn what is easily one of the most quirky campaign videos of the cycle, and the only one that was filmed in a bathroom, health care executive Gus Rantz talks about running for the 3rd Congressional District while shaving.

But the spot is really about his goatee. Or, rather, what it stands for in the Acadiana-based race.

“Industry insiders, all the experts told me, you know, what you gotta do is you gotta get rid of your goatee if you’re gonna be elected,” Rantz says in the spot while applying shaving cream.

As he shaves, he explains that he had his goatee when he met his wife and while he was in law school.

“So know this,” Rantz continues, “the day I shave this goatee is the first time I’m not being honest with you and I’m just like every other politician.”They Said It“I was reared Southern Baptism. But in between I was Presbyterian and Methodist. And being a lawyer, I tell people I didn’t want to blow eternity on a technicality.” —Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, introducing Pastor Reggie Bridges to say a prayer on the House floor“As most of you know, Rob is still a work in progress.”—Pastor Bridges, in response

 

About Jeremy Alford 203 Articles
Jeremy Alford is an independent journalist and the co-author of LONG SHOT, which recounts Louisiana's 2015 race for governor. His bylines appear regularly in The New York Times and he has served as an on-camera analyst for CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

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