07 April 2008

Committee action, Apr. 7: SB 207, 328

SB 207 and SB 328 would explicitly permit the state, in the case of a non-recurring surplus, to return it in the form of a tax rebate. Sens. Mike Walsworth and Nick Gautreaux argued this was an option that should be available to taxpayers, and agreed they ought to merge the bills since they were nearly identical. Gautreaux pointed out that 57 percent of the previous surplus was derived from personal income taxes. There actually was a fiscal note on it, for paying for mailings to alert taxpayers. Walsworth pointed out anybody required to file income taxes would be eligible.

Sen. Jack Donahue asked about the present loophole to get around the six separate constitutional uses of a non-recurring surplus, retiring short-term debt that by its nature could then immediately be turned into current assets – essentially cash. From the Legislative Fiscal Office, Greg Albrecht said that was probably beyond the scope of this bill, thinking it would have to be a constitutional amendment. Donahue said this ought to be pursued

Sen. Edwin Murray wondered whether any such surplus could be used to create an automatic reduction in the next set of taxes due. However, timing and bureaucracy could be a problem and extensive, Albrecht said. Murray said this would make return of the money automatic.

An amendment was offered to change the effective date to have it Jan. 1 after the next elections, to take politics out, Walsworth said. Murray asked why not have the constitutional amendment go forward now for a vote even if it didn’t start in 2012? Gautreaux pointed out on his bill it didn’t have this part and he didn’t want it. It failed 1-7.

Gautreaux then offered an amendment that essentially merged the bills into SB 207. He even volunteered to have his bill used by Murray for his “trigger mechanism” for the automatic payment, but Murray said he wasn’t ready for that. The amendment was adopted without objection. The whole bill was reported without objection. Gautreaux then offered his bill for the same amended, and it was adopted.

TUESDAY: SB 133 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development Committee.

WEDNESDAY: SB 223 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

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