(The Center Square) – The Louisiana House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to create a single commission to oversee sales tax collection statewide, though some expressed concern the details haven’t yet been hammered out.
House Bill 199 by Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder would create an eight-member board to oversee tax collections statewide. Traditionally under Louisiana’s unusual system, local officials have collected local taxes, which they have argued ensures they get their revenue in a timely manner and can spend the money they way local taxpayers and voters want it spent.
Business advocates, however, say the current system is difficult for taxpayers who sell to multiple jurisdictions to navigate and is not well suited for the modern age of online sales. The decentralized approach, found in only three states, contributes to Louisiana’s poor grades from national organizations that rate tax structures, which in turn can scare off new businesses, supporters of the change said.
Schexnayder’s bill creates an eight-member commission evenly divided between representatives of state and local government to oversee collection. The change would require a state constitutional amendment, which means it would need the support of two-thirds of the members of each chamber of the Louisiana Legislature and a majority of voters.
The companion statute that would govern how the process works is not available in the current session. In its current form, HB 199 calls for a public vote in November 2022, more than a year away.
Rep. Kenny Cox, a D-Natchitoches, said he was concerned about giving too much power to a single entity.
“They’re saying [the current system] is working,” said Rep. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer, referring to the local officials he represents.
House members ultimately voted 96-4 for the bill. Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, assured members the conversations about the bill will continue as the legislative process moves along.
“We are falling behind,” Schexnayder said. “This will help us move forward.”