(The Center Square) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration and legislative leaders will discuss over the weekend how much the state can afford to give up or give out when it comes to tax breaks and incentives, a state Senate chairman said Friday.
Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said he expects to come to a decision about “how many dollars we can afford to relinquish on all of these bills.”
“Probably Monday, we’ll come in and push [the bills] out,” White said.
Legislators have proposed numerous tax breaks and business subsidies during this year’s sessions, many of which were recommended by a business task force that legislative leaders brought together. Debates have centered around how to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and response while protecting the state’s fiscal health in a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
On Friday, White’s committee discussed raising the amount of their sales tax collections that businesses are allowed to keep from 0.935 percent to 1.1 percent, returning to the compensation level the state allowed before lawmakers reduced it during the last term as part of their effort to close a budget shortfall. Senate Bill 21 also would reduce the maximum amount businesses can keep each month from $1,500 to $1,200, with a minimum of $15 monthly.
The difference wouldn’t mean much to large companies but it could benefit very small businesses that were forced to close or limit their operations as part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, said Jason DeCuir, who chairs the business task force. Two other bills pending in the special session also would return dealer compensation to 1.1 percent, though other details of those measures differ.
“We want to try to help,” White said. “We have to decide how much we can help.”
White said the committee will hold on to the bill for now, keeping it alive for the session.
The committee did advance Senate Bill 24, which extends the life of the state’s Angel Investor Tax Credit program and enhances the benefit for investment in low-income “opportunity zones” designated by the federal government. It also doubles the program’s annual cap from $3.6 million to $7.2 million.
The program has never come close to reaching its cap, however. The average annual cost is $1.6 million. Given the relatively low cost, White said he had no problem with advancing the bill and none of the other committee members objected.