Jeff Lagrange, director of the St. Mary Parish Sales and Use Tax Department, reported the collections to the St. Mary Council of Governments group Monday at the Forest Restaurant in Franklin.
October actual collections of $3.779 million were up 4.2 percent; November collections of $3.678 million were up 22.3 percent and December collections of $3.197 million were only .1 percent higher than comparable months in 2011.
For the fourth quarter of the year total collections were 8.4 percent over the previous year.
Without audits, fourth quarter collections were up 9.3 percent over 2011.
Also during Monday’s session of the informal group of governing bodies, Rep. Sam Jones, (D-Franklin) said members of the House of Representatives are “having trouble with the math” in regard to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s
proposal to eliminate the state income tax.
“I did go to public school and I can do some math,” Jones joked. “That math isn’t working. To move $2.5 billion of income tax off the ledger and replace it with that same $2.5 billion… the proposal is that the sales tax will go up from 1.6 percent to 2 percent. We just can’t make that work.”
Jones said the governor’s plan “and the purpose of it… they want to do it to make the business environment even better. I think we’re all for that. How do we get there? If there’s some onerous and old taxes that need to come off the books, for example, in 1934 the insurance companies of the nation were told that if they deposit hard cash into a bank in Louisiana, a local bank, they would get a tax cut or an exemption. Back then I think it cost the state $125,000 a year. That exemption never went away… that exemption (now) costs us $190 million a year.”
Louisiana has the third highest sales tax in America, Jones said, and the change would put the state at the highest.
He asked for input from local governments on the issue. “Are you going to have to offset that with more property taxes or higher fees so that you can make ends meet? That’s the questions we need to ask,” Jones said.
The state also wants to centralize tax collections at the state level, Jones said. “You have to let us know if you want that,” he said.
Jones said the proposal is modeled after Texas, but “the friends I have over there tell me that, the one with the lowest tax bill on his house, pays $400 a month they have to pay (in property tax.)”
In the 1980s “we learned a lot of lessons,” he said. “We were 65 or 70 percent dependent on the oil and gas industry for revenue. When the collapse came it hit us and it hit us hard. We had 28 percent unemployment back then… the depression only got 25 percent here. We went through a tough time. The state diversified and right now we’re about 30 percent sales tax, 30 percent income tax, 20 percent oil and gas and the balance comes from various collections and fees. I was always taught that if you do have some money or a business you try to keep it diverse.”
The group opened the meeting with a moment of silence for the one officer killed and two injured in the Charenton shooting Saturday.
Also Monday, St. Mary Parish Councilman Albert Foulcard urged representatives of local governments to alter bar close ordinances to 3 a.m. rather than 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.