Clearly exasperated at the end of a question-and-answer session, she told legislators gathered for first Acadiana Press Club monthly luncheon that “It would be so much better to use the energy to go in and try amend the existing system and make it make more sense.”
Blanco and other members of the general public were allowed to ask questions, if they chose, at the club’s first meeting. That will not be the case at future club events.
“It would be a healthier discussion if you all were looking at ways to generate a few dollars here and there,” she said, adding that she thinks the state’s other living governors -- Edwin Edwards, Buddy Roemer and Mike Foster -- agree with her.
The Jindal administration’s plan to shift the tax burden in an essentially revenue neutral move got most of the attention at the luncheon attended by Ways & Means Chairman Joe Robideaux, Reps. Vincent Pierre, Terry Landry and Simone Champagne and Sen. Fred Mills.
Robideaux’s committee will get first crack at the tax plan and he has been involved from the get-go with the administration in exploring the ins and outs of the change.
He said he believes dropping the personal income tax is a win for the Louisiana consumer, though he says the Legislature still has to be convinced.
If Jindal would do away with personal income tax, the consumer will have to pay more at the register to offset the loss of revenue from state personal income tax. Consumers pay 4 percent sales tax now. If Jindal gets his wish, the consumer would pay around 5.6 percent.
However, Louisiana currently exempts groceries, medicine, household utilities and gasoline from state sales tax. Robideaux said none of those exemptions would disappear.
Eliminating personal income tax, Robideaux said, would not bring in extra revenue to the state.
If eliminating personal income tax is not going to reduce the state debt, then why do it? Blanco said it’s a distraction from what the real problem is.
“I think this whole (personal income) tax question is a big substitute to subdue the big things that are really going on (in the legislature),” said Blanco. “This is very disturbing. It (removing personal sales tax debate) is making us forget what the real problem is.”
Blanco said legislatures should be worried about teachers who are quitting their profession at an alarming rate or state workers who have not gotten a pay raise in five years. The legislature should be worried about people leaving the state for other jobs.
“Our whole system is a slow meltdown,” she added. ‘We are going to wake up in a couple of years and it will be scorched dirt, and it will be very hard to put back together.”
Pierre and Landry said they are far from convinced the structure change will not worsen the lot of the state’s economic underclass.
Mills expressed concerns about the administration plan’s for the health care system, and what might occur if the funding plan fall through.
Champagne, among a group known as the Legislature’s “budget hawks” and a member of the Revenue Estimating Committee, said her cohorts are working on a package of measures to overhaul the state’s budget process and funding dedications