State lawmakers enter the second week of the legislative session with no clear consensus on to how to solve the state's looming $1.6 billion budget hole, but they do have many possible budget-balancing tools at their disposal. Scores of bills have been filed offering alternatives for either cutting expenses or raising revenues.
If there were a prize for suggesting the most potential solutions, it would go to state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, hands down. As of late last week, the veteran, term-limited senator has filed at least 27 bills dealing with budgeting and taxation.
Some of Adley's measures are aimed at long-term fixes, such as proposed constitutional amendments that would repeal the inventory tax (Senate Bill 85) and the property tax on stored natural gas (SB 177), dedicate portions of the Transportation Trust Fund (SB 123), scale back the industrial tax exemption starting in 2017 (SB 125), and combine the so-called Rainy Day Fund with the Transportation Trust Fund (SB 202).
Adley also proposes some immediate solutions in the form of "veto-proof" concurrent resolutions that would suspend for one year all exemptions and exclusions from the state income tax (SCR 2), severance taxes (SCR 3), corporate income and franchise taxes (SCR 4), sales taxes (SCR 5) and certain excise taxes (SCR 6). In other bills, Adley proposes to limit application of historic and film tax credits (SB 266), limit income and franchise deductions for corporations (SB 269 and 270) and otherwise scale back deductions and tax credits.
Other much-discussed revenue and budget bills include:
• Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, has filed several bills to scale back tax credits, repeal certain taxes and eliminate budget dedications. His House Bill 238 would repeal the inventory tax, and his HB 454 would repeal the remainder of the solar energy tax credit. His most talked-about bill, however, is HB 762, which would eliminate many statutory budget dedications and allow lawmakers to prioritize budgetary line items every year.
• Talbot's most far-reaching proposal could be his HB 495, which rewrites the rules on the state's construction budget, otherwise known as the Capital Outlay Bill. For years governors have controlled the capital outlay process — and they have used it as leverage to make lawmakers toe the administration line. Talbot proposes to put the Legislature in control of that process. Given the amount of legislative discontent with Gov. Bobby Jindal — and given that this is Jindal's final year in office — this bill could gain some traction.
• Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, has filed HB 523, a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate many budget mandates and dedications presently enshrined in the state Constitution. The bill is a companion of sorts to Talbot's HB 762; both would put a lot of sacred cows "in play" every budget season. That has made Schroder and Talbot the targets of a lot of powerful special interests.
• Sen. J.P. Morrell has filed SB 196, which likewise is a constitutional amendment that would eliminate many revenue dedications. Morrell's measure would preserve the dedication for coastal restoration because it is tied to federal revenue sharing.