Judge dismisses Louisiana Chemical Association lawsuit challenging business tax change

    Lawmakers properly passed a tax change aimed at raising $103 million to balance the state’s budget, a judge ruled today in dismissing a lawsuit by the Louisiana Chemical Association.

    As The Associated Press reports, the LCA argued that the temporary suspension of a one-cent sales tax exemption on business utilities didn’t receive the required votes for passage in the state House of Representatives and was unconstitutional. State District Judge Michael Caldwell disagreed.

    “I think the procedure for adoption for this concurrent resolution was in accordance with the constitution,” he said after hearing arguments from both sides.

    After the decision was issued, chemical association lawyers refused to comment to The AP on the ruling and didn’t say whether they intended to appeal.

    Lawmakers scaled back dozens of tax breaks earlier this year to generate more money for the state treasury and stop deep cuts to public health care services and colleges. Suspension of the business utility tax break expires in August 2016.

    The suspension amounts to a short-term tax increase that heavily hits chemical plants. The chemical association, which represents companies that operate 108 plants across Louisiana, sought to have the legislation declared unconstitutional because it didn’t receive support from two-thirds of House lawmakers.

    The House and Senate took two votes each to pass the legislation. Both times, the Senate had more than a two-thirds vote for the measure. The House never reached that mark, which would have been 70 votes. The first House vote May 7 was 63-41, and final passage came with a 60-42 House vote June 11.

    Caldwell said the Louisiana Constitution allows for the suspension of a law with the same votes as the law was passed. Since the tax break didn’t need a two-thirds vote to pass, the suspension of it doesn’t need a two-thirds vote, he said.

    It’s unclear if the tax break suspension will generate as much money as expected. At a recent state income forecasting panel meeting, the Legislature’s economist said fewer business utility sales taxes were being paid than had been projected.

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