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|Tax cuts should not be forgotten|
While many eyes in Louisiana have been focused as of late on a pay raise state lawmakers approved for themselves, the people should not forget the Legislature signed off on a $300-million tax cut for middle-class wage earners and others.
Senate Bill 87 by Sen. Buddy Shaw of Shreveport will roll back some state income tax rates, beginning in 2010, to levels the state levied prior to the Legislature and the people approving the so-called "Stelly Plan" in 2002.
It was named in honor of former Rep. Vic Stelly of Lake Charles, who was the point man on legislation that raised state income rates in Louisiana in lieu of the state giving up a one-cent sales tax on food, prescription drugs and utilities. "Stelly" was a constitutional amendment, which the people overwhelmingly approved at the polls.
Yet, "Stelly" evolved into more than a simple income tax increase on the people. It became a money-generating machine for the state at the expense of the people.
While the intention of "Stelly" were commendable, few people expected that many local governing bodies would seize the opportunity to impose a sales-tax increase in the wake of the state abolishing it's one-cent sales tax on the aforementioned items.
That's exactly what happened, though, meaning many Louisiana taxpayers took it on the chin—financially—twice.
Meanwhile, "Stelly" took away the deduction state income taxpayers could claim for interest payments made on home mortgages. That meant at least one tax incentive associated with buying a home existed no more.
With the roll-back of "Stelly," Shaw, along with his colleagues in the Legislature, gave state income taxpayers some welcome relief. That's especially important in light of the extra expenses the people are witnessing today thanks to sky-high oil and gas prices.
Shaw and company also sent a message to America that Louisiana continues to make progress in turning the Sportsman's Paradise into an attractive setting for people to live and work.
That may be the most important aspect of the income tax cuts the Shaw bill will accomplish over time.
Though we would have preferred that the income tax cuts approved by the Legislature were effective at the beginning of the 2008-09 fiscal year—like pay raises for state lawmakers—we believe the people should not allow a self-serving pay raise to cloud their judgment when the time arrives to grade the Legislature on its work in the Regular Session.