Simplifying tax code, education, expanding criminal justice reform topped agenda


Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state is in a good financial position after the budget crises of the past. (Photo by Catherine Hunt / LSU Manship School News Service)
Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state is in a good financial position after the budget crises of the past. (Photo by Catherine Hunt / LSU Manship School News Service)

BATON ROUGE — Buoyed by billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief aid, Louisiana legislators took on several big issues this spring and made progress in simplifying the tax code, supporting education and expanding criminal-justice reform.


Some public-interest groups praised the tax changes as important steps toward strengthening Louisiana’s economy, while others expressed concern that some of the changes could lead to a budget crunch down the road.


The Council for a Better Louisiana viewed the main changes—lowering state income tax rates for individuals and corporations and eliminating deductions for what they pay in federal income taxes--as “a positive step forward,” while noting that it was only the beginning of righting a complicated, messy system.


Gov. John Bel Edwards indicated after the legislative session ended that he would support this swap in the source of state tax revenues as long as it does not cost the state much in the short run. The changes would require adjustments to the state Constitution, and if he signs the bills, residents will have to vote on them in October.


The Public Affairs Research Council said that if voters approve, the state’s tax structure will become “simpler, fairer, more competitive, and better-ranked nationally.”


But the Louisiana Budget Project, which researches how state policies affect the poor and the working class, issued a statement warning that lawmakers were relying too heavily on federal relief dollars that will soon be gone.


The group’s executive director, Jan Moller, supported the “excellent premise” of the tax swap, but bemoaned the way it was executed.


“Unfortunately, our lawmakers missed an historic opportunity to fix Louisiana’s broken tax system,” Moller said. “Legislators could have used the revenue gained by eliminating this deduction to make new investments, or to reduce racial disparities in our tax system by reducing the state sales tax. Instead, they used the revenue to cut income-tax rates for individuals and corporations.”