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|Hoffmann, Walsworth focus on budget cuts|
A proposal to roll back tax cuts approved by the Legislature last year hit a road block again, this time at the hands of House Speaker Jim Tucker.
Tucker announced earlier this week he would not assign Senate Bill 335 to a House committee because he believes the measure is unconstitutional.
Sponsored by Sen. Lydia Jackson of Shreveport, SB 335 would retroactively reduce from 100 percent to 65 percent the amount tax filers could claim for excess itemized deductions. The deductions include interest on mortgage payments, medical expenses and charitable contributions. During the 2008 regular session, state lawmakers agreed to raise the deduction limit from 65 percent to 100 percent for the deductions.
Since Jackson's bill involves a tax increase, it should have been proposed by the House instead of the Senate, according to Tucker. That's the case because the state constitution mandates that all tax measures must originate in the House.
State Sen. Mike Walsworth called Tucker's move a "good decision."
"What Tucker did was absolutely right for him to do," said Walsworth, R-West Monroe. "I think we all understood it was a constitutional problem."
Walsworth has spoken out against Jackson's proposal on numerous occasions since the bill was first considered three weeks ago in a Senate committee. Walsworth described the bill as a major tax increase.
Since it increased taxes, Walsworth said it needed to begin in the House, rather than the Senate.
"It was a revenue raiser and it should have started on the House side," Walsworth said.
Jackson has said revenues raised by her proposal could be used to offset cuts to higher education, which is facing more than $200 million in budget reductions in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
State Rep. Frank Hoffmann said he was still hopeful of "some sort of relief" for higher education during the remainder of the regular session. The session will end no later than June 25.
"We know there are some cuts that are going to be have to made and so do they, which is why they're willing to work with us on this," said Hoffmann, R-West Monroe. "If we're going to take out the appendix, we don't want to take the liver and spleen with it."
Hoffmann said he "did not like the idea" of raising taxes to offset the cuts.
Hoffmann pointed out that Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he would veto any tax increases.
Instead, Hoffmann said he is directing his energy at finding the money elsewhere and he expressed hope that Jindal would "take the lead" on finding the money to spare cuts to higher education.
"I've spoken with him about that and encouraged him to do that," Hoffmann said.
With just a few weeks left in the regular session of the Legislature, Walsworth said now is when the tough work will begin for lawmakers, who have to craft a balanced budget to present to the governor.
"We'll now come back together and do what we can do to bring this budget together over the next couple of weeks," Walsworth said.