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Story Archives: Legislators quibble over sin taxes
|Legislators quibble over sin taxes|
A pair of tax proposals making their way through the legislative process would fund "valuable programs, but at what cost?" according to state Sen. Neil Riser.
Riser said a proposed 15-cent per pack cigarette tax would be used to fund health programs in the state while a second 15-cent per month tax on Internet connections would be used to fund Internet crime investigation.
However, Riser said he would vote against both taxes because the state is already funding programs in those areas and new taxes may not be needed.
"Even though I agree with the causes that we're spending it on, they're honorable causes and are being pursued right now, I don't think the tax will raise enough money," said Riser, R-Columbia.
Riser said he believed the proposed tobacco might harm revenues in parishes along the state's borders.
"It's been demonstrated in the past where, when there is a significant tax difference, people will drive into the next state to save that money," Riser said. "That hurts the border parishes because they lose that revenue."
Riser also questioned whether or not the internet tax could past federal muster.
"There is a question of whether it is constitutional to levy the tax," Riser said. "There was a (U.S.) Supreme Court ruling a few years back that may apply."
If the tax were ruled unconstitutional by a federal court, the state would not be allowed to collect it.
That would cause a budget shortfall because the lost revenue would already be in the budget, Riser said.
Riser said the situation such a move would create is similar to the problem now facing the state House of Representatives.
Legislators there are currently working to craft their version of the state's budget, expected to top $28 billion.
However, the version of the budget House members received from the Senate includes more than $200 million in money "that simply won't be there," according to Riser, because the House has rejected a proposal to delay implementation of the Stelly Tax breaks.
Senators approved Senate Bill 335, a proposal made by Shreveport Democrat Lydia Jackson to undo the tax cuts approved last year.
However, Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he will veto that measure if it arrives at his desk.
Without the approval of Jackson's bill in the House, legislators will need to find an additional $200 million to fill the gap, Riser said.