Foundation: Louisiana residents pay low state taxes

BATON ROUGE — As lawmakers battle over raising more revenue, it is worth keeping in mind that Louisiana residents pay some of the lowest state taxes in the country, tax and budget analysts say.

The Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy research organization, estimated this year that Louisiana and Alaska had the earliest “Tax Freedom Day” of any states — April 4.

That’s the date, the group says, by which the residents of a state have collectively earned enough money to cover all their federal, state and local taxes for the year, and it provides a rough measure for comparing the tax burdens among the states. New York residents did not hit their tax freedom day until May 14.

The foundation earlier did a more comprehensive study using 2012 data and found that Louisiana’s state and local tax burden was the sixth lowest in the nation as a share of total state income. Louisiana had relatively low property, individual income and corporate taxes.

“The state has a low total local and state tax burden compared to local income, but we have a very high sales tax,” said Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project, a nonprofit group that monitors how public policy affects low- to moderate-income families.

The overall state tax level is important as legislators exchange increasingly sharp retorts about how much money to raise to fill a projected $648 million budget shortfall and how much to rely on cuts, mostly to high education and health care programs.

Moller said that a proposal in both the House and the Senate to extend a third of a cent of sales tax “would not be our first choice at tax reform. But since the Legislature refused to pass anything in 2017, I think it’s now our best hope at avoiding cuts that nobody wants.”

“Nobody wants to throw people out of nursing homes, tell college students they’re not going to get the scholarship they were promised or close hospitals,” he added.

The Republican-led House has passed bills that would raise about $400 million to replace some of the temporary revenue measures that expire this summer. One of the bills would extend one-third of a penny of sales tax that expires July 1.

Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, and the leader of the Legislature’s Republican delegation, said his constituents would prefer cuts to further tax increases and want to cut the size of government.

A Senate committee on Wednesday agreed to extend the third of a ce