Capitol Views: Tax topics on Tax Day and a ticking clock for the budget

    Members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the first step in the Legislature for a tax bill, spent most of their national Tax Day discussing proposed changes to the state’s complicated tax structure.

    With 21 bills on the committee’s agenda today—and just 52 days remaining until the regular session’s adjournment—lawmakers waded through bills that would restore sales tax holidays that were accidentally eliminated last year, among other measures, as the afternoon reached its midpoint.

    From the revenue side of things to the spending arena, the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee hosted hearings today and heard from Corrections Department officials about the savings expected from the recent criminal justice overhaul, from the transportation secretary about federal matches and from the natural resources leadership team about orphaned wells. While all of the topics might sound sporadic or random, they’ll eventually come together when the committee offers its draft of the budget for the next fiscal year.

    On both sides of the budget picture, time has become a quiet issue. There are seven and a half weeks left in the session, which represents a shorter timeframe than lawmakers have enjoyed (and endured) this term. Greg Hilburn, a journalist for the USA Today Network, reported today that timeline may even be shorter than many lawmakers realize.

    “If lawmakers can’t agree on a budget before the clock runs out on the Regular Session June 6, they’ll face highest bar in the Constitution to pass one during a Special Session,” Hilburn reported. “That’s because the appropriation of any money following the Regular Session during the final year of a term—an election year—requires a three-fourths majority vote in the House and the Senate. It’s the only action in the Louisiana Constitution that requires a three-fourths vote by the Legislature, according to House Clerk Butch Speer.”

    Time, at least, was on the side of the committees by mid-afternoon, with the House scheduled to convene at 4 p.m. and the Senate at 5 p.m. Both the tax committee and the budget committee, though, will be back bright and early tomorrow morning for 9 a.m. meetings.

    Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon on Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session. The report is also available to subscribers at LaPolitics.com.

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