House panel OKs bill to keep third-cent sales tax

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State Treasurer John Schroder testified on a bill by Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, to extend one-third of the extra penny of sales tax and make budget cuts. (Photo: Sarah Gamard)

Kaylee Poche and Tryfon Boukouvidis

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 11-6 Thursday to advance a Republican bill that would raise $369 million in additional revenue next year ­— $279 million less than state officials say they would need to cover a projected budget shortfall.

The bill, written by Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, would extend one-third of the penny of sales tax that is set to expire this summer and include budget cuts to reduce the size of state government.

Harris, the chairman of the Louisiana Republican Legislative Delegation, argued that the budget gap is likely to be about $495 million and that state agencies would face only a 1.3 percent cut in funding on average.

But the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference projects that the shortfall will be $648 million, and Jay Dardenne, a top official in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, said Harris’ bill would require much more “dramatic reductions” in higher education and state health services than Harris acknowledged.

Read the story in The Minden Press-Herald.

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