House conservatives have apparently coalesced around a plan to block the Legislature from raising a constitutional cap on state spending, which requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber. The move could complicate efforts to finance state construction projects, or provide extra dollars needed for critical child welfare and juvenile justice services. Legislative analysts say the current-year budget is just $464 million below the cap and that only $500 million of room remains in the 2023-24 budget – far less than the $1.6 billion in surplus and “excess” revenue available for lawmakers to invest. The Advocate’s James Finn reports: 

Good-government groups such as the Public Affairs Research Council urge spending the one-time money on one-time costs. (Gov. John Bel) Edwards and his staff have pitched lawmakers on using the money for coastal restoration, road and bridge projects and hurricane debts owed to the federal government. House Republicans responded with a plan to avoid breaking the cap by sloughing the extra money off to pay some of the state’s massive debt tied up in public employee pensions. They’re also discussing a second proposal to pay off some of that debt: diverting about $880 million in revenue from the temporary .45% sales tax away from the state’s budget to pay off debt tied to teacher pensions.

Local governments oppose franchise tax repeal, loss of ITEP control
The powerful chairman of the tax-writing Senate Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Committee wants to eliminate two taxes paid by corporations that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the state and local governments – the corporate franchise tax and the inventory tax. On Monday, Sen. Bret Allain’s bills advanced from his committee without objection, and with provisions added that would offset some of their costs. Senate Bill 1 would repeal the corporate franchise over a four-year period beginning in 2025, with the costs offset with reductions to the Quality Jobs corporate subsidy program. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports: 

The Quality Jobs program, administered through the Louisiana Economic Development agency, offers payroll tax rebates to certain businesses for creating or retaining jobs. The incentive program costs the state millions every year but would only offset about 40% of the revenue lost from repealing the franchise tax, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

Allain’s Senate Bill 2, a constitutional amendment, would repeal the state’s inventory tax in exchange for codifying (and expanding) some of the recent changes to the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP). The inventory tax is a key source of revenue for local governments, and local officials say they can’t recoup their revenue loss by changes to ITEP.

“It’s just not an even swap,” (Louisiana Municipal Association) Executive Counsel Karen White said. “It ends up with local governments losing millions and millions and millions of dollars in revenue even if 20% of money — that might otherwise be waived via ITEP — is enshrined somehow. It’s not a tenable situation.” The House Ways & Means State Tax Structure Subcommittee recently studied the idea of repealing the inventory tax and found that it would likely cost businesses more because it would force parishes to increase their property tax millages. 

Controversial tax credits advance
Louisiana would continue to subsidize film and TV productions under legislation that advanced out of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee on Monday. Speaker Clay Schexnayder’s House Bill 562 would extend the state’s annual $180 million film tax credit, which was scheduled to expire in 2025, for another decade. The Lafayette Daily Advertiser’s Greg Hilburn reports on the debate surrounding the return on investments of the lucrative credits. 

Officials from the state’s economic development department said the overall economic impact outside of the direct return of taxes to the state is $6 for every $1 spent by the productions. They estimate the industry supports about 10,000 jobs. Critics note Louisiana recoups only 22 cents for every $1 credit issued. But Republican Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said his data shows that 53% of visitors said something they saw about Louisiana in movies or on TV motivated their trip to the state, which can’t be measured in the economic studies.

Lawmakers on the Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs advanced an income tax credit for controversial crisis pregnancy centers. Sen. Beth Mizell’s Senate Bill 41 could cost the state as much as $5 million a year for the state to subsidize a highly unregulated industry. 

Lift Louisiana also says the centers suggest they are akin to medical facilities, but they often don’t employ nurses or doctors. Many refuse to administer or promote birth control. “[The centers] do not provide health care and they are not regulated,” said Michelle Erenberg, executive director of Lift Louisiana, at the hearing. Pregnancy crisis centers also receive direct support from the state already. Louisiana has transferred federal money earmarked for low-income families — through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program — to the centers for years. In the current budget cycle, the state has allocated over $2 million to these organizations.

The uphill battle for LGTBQ+ people after death
For many LGTBQ+ people, making arrangements for death, such as funeral services and who will be in charge of executing a will, is a harrowing experience. That’s because laws make it possible for biological family members, not chosen loved ones, to make decisions for a person after they die. But the Louisiana LGBTQ+ End of Life Guide, thought to be the first of its kind in the United States, aims to help community members have their wishes carried out. The Washington Post’s Katy Reckdahl and Christiana Botic report: 

The guide is the brainchild of Ezra Salter, 31, a funeral director in suburban New Orleans. The onus to create this comprehensive guide came after Salter started dating their partner, Keira, a transgender woman. … “For queer folks, your biological family — the people who are legally the next in line to make decisions — are oftentimes the last people that you want making your decisions,” [Nicholas Hite, of the Hite Law Group in New Orleans] he said. “So you need legal paperwork allowing your most closely held individuals — who aren’t necessarily married to you or related by blood — to be in the hospital and at the funeral home with you and on your behalf.”

Number of the Day
$1.57 billion
– Five-year revenue loss if Louisiana repeals the corporate franchise tax under Senate Bill 1. A companion bill would make up some of the lost revenue by scaling back the Quality Jobs corporate subsidy program. (Source: Legislative Fiscal Office)