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Lawmakers race against the clock to close budget gap

8 months 3 weeks 6 days ago March 08, 2016 Mar 8, 2016 Tuesday, March 08 2016 March 08, 2016 8:34 AM in News
Source: WBRZ
By: Mark Armstrong & Hunter Robinson

BATON ROGE - The special legislative session ends Wednesday and lawmakers now have less than 48 hours to sort out the state's budget mess. Monday, they discussed raising the sales tax an extra cent until the end of the current fiscal year.

There's no official proposal yet, but republicans and business lobbyists are pushing for the highest sales tax in the country so businesses don't have to pay more.

House republicans have shot down a number of tax hikes over the past week, particularly those aimed at businesses.

"Businesses must do their part," Jan Moller of Louisiana Budget Project opines. "They have rejected and lobbied against a number of bills that would have them pay a little more so they can enjoy the roads and schools and the benefits our tax dollars bring to the state".

The state is still short a significant amount of money, which puts colleges and healthcare at risk. As an alternative, business groups and republicans have thrown theri support behind a temporary 6% sales tax.

"A sales tax is a business tax," Stephen Waguespack with the Association Business-Industry says. "Business pays roughly half of all sales tax also, so it is a shared tax."

Business groups argue taxes aimed strictly at corporations have been raised a lot over the past few years, and sat raising them more could hurt jobs especially as the state enters a recession.

"We've lost 11-thousand jobs over the last year, 10-thousand in the last year alone," Waguespack explains. "That's 20% of the state's workforce."

Advocates for the poor say a 6% sales tax, even a temporary one, puts an unecessary burden on the low income people.

The special session ends Wednesday.

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