House committee kills Jindal-backed higher ed tax credit
BATON ROUGE - After a meeting filled with wrangling and amendments, the Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee ultimately chose to kill a Jindal-backed higher education tax credit which opponents said benefited nobody but the outgoing governor.
The committee voted 10-9 to defer Senate Bill 284, which would have created a complicated fee and tax credit to funnel money to colleges without appearing to raise taxes, something Jindal pledged not to do while governor.
Senator Jack Donahue authored the bill, which would have created the Student Assessment for a Valuable Education, or SAVE, tax credit. A fee would have been levied against higher education students under the measure, but the simultaneous tax credit would mean they would not have to pay for it. Instead the credit, funded by tax increases elsewhere, would give more money to colleges while appearing to zero out those raised taxes.
LSU student Scott Cornelius spoke to lawmakers during the committee hearing, saying the SAVE credit didn't benefit anyone but Jindal. Rep. Eddie Lambert, who is on the committee, said the bill seemed akin to money laundering, which Donahue disagreed with.
The committee originally tried amending the bill so it would sunset after first five, then one, then three years. That means Jindal, who signed Governor Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge and plans to make an announcement about his presidential aspirations later this month, would have left office while still being able to claim he didn't raise taxes.
The governor threatened to veto any tax increases which came out of the legislature, which is trying to fill a $1.6 billion budget deficit without drastic cuts to higher education and health care. The House passed several tax changes already to raise more than $600 million in revenue, but the Senate has been trying to stay within Jindal's guidelines to avoid a veto.
Kyle Plotkin, the governor's chief of staff, said the budget was still "baking" and that there was "still time to get a budget done that is balanced, protects higher education and healthcare, and doesn't raise taxes."
The legislative session must end on June 11.