BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The decision to shelve Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's state income tax repeal proposal was "responsible and prudent" because the effort could have worsened the state's ongoing financial troubles, the House GOP delegation said Tuesday.
Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris, the delegation chairman, issued a statement saying Republicans support the move by their colleague, Ways and Means Chairman Joel Robideaux, to jettison discussion of the tax repeal bills.
"While repeal is off the table for this legislative session, we will continue to work on the issue so that we can craft a responsible way to achieve our objectives in reforming the tax code in the future," Harris said.
The Republicans' statement showed solid legislative opposition to the governor's main agenda for the session and appeared to end any possibility of reviving the tax repeal plan before the session ends in June.
Democrats were against the repeal, and Republicans make up a majority of the House, leaving Jindal little area for negotiation on the proposal.
Harris said GOP House members were concerned about the budget implications of the tax repeal without an offset for the lost revenue.
The state has grappled with five years of budget cuts and faces another billion-dollar shortfall to close in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.
"While repeal of the income tax is a significant Republican goal, most of our members were concerned about how to pay for the billions in lost revenue," Harris said.
The governor's office didn't say Tuesday whether Jindal was trying to change the minds of members of his party. Instead, spokesman Sean Lansing issued a statement saying eliminating income taxes would create jobs.
"If the Legislature decides not to do that, we think it's a missed opportunity," Lansing said in an email.
Grover Norquist's anti-tax-group Americans for Tax Reform called the sidelining of the tax repeal proposals "short-sighted," saying the income taxes put Louisiana at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring Texas.
A day earlier, the House Ways and Means Committee indefinitely deferred all House tax repeal bills at Robideaux's urging. Instead, lawmakers intend to try smaller proposals that would raise tobacco taxes and tweak tax exemption programs.
Robideaux, R-Lafayette, said the income tax repeal sought by Jindal didn't have enough support to win approval in the committee, and he said he felt no need "to prolong the agony" of hours of testimony on "bills that had no shot at passing."
With that move, the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus announced it won't push its alternate tax plan to lower the tax rates.
Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, chair of the group, said in a written statement Monday night that the caucus wouldn't seek hearings on measures that would cut rates for individual and business income taxes and eliminate the corporate franchise tax.
Instead, the black caucus will push an increase in Louisiana's cigarette tax, with the new dollars dedicated to health care services and higher education.
Jindal initially sought to eliminate the individual and business income taxes in January 2014 and replace them with higher sales taxes charged on previously untaxed items, boosted tobacco taxes and the removal of dozens of tax breaks on the books.
His tax package ran into strong opposition, and on the opening day of the regular session last week, Jindal abandoned his proposal and instead told lawmakers he wanted them to send him a phase-out of income taxes. He gave them no parameters on how to get there or whether to replace the lost revenue.
Nonpartisan government watchdog groups and business leaders said the two-month session was too short to come up with a well-conceived plan.