Louisiana: Louisiana House rejects alcohol tax sought by Gov. John Bel Edwards
March 04, 2016
The Louisiana House rejected an alcohol tax increase Friday (March 4) that Gov. John Bel Edwards had pushed for weeks as part of a package to fill a $900 million budget hole.
The House voted 65-33 for the alcohol tax hike in House Bill 27, but tax increases need 70 votes to pass. Some House members audibly gasped in frustration when the legislation failed.
House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, and House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, were among those who voted against it. Natchitoches Rep. Kenny Cox, the legislation’s sponsor, said he intends to bring the alcohol tax back up for another vote, possibly later on Friday or Saturday.
“I think it will pass. We’ll bring it back,” he said.
Just a few hours earlier, Edwards had publicly implored the House to pass the alcohol tax. The governor said if the House didn’t start to move more tax bills, higher education and health care services would suffer dramatic cuts. Louisiana’s public colleges and universities have said they might have to start furloughing staff members.
“We’re talking about three-quarters of a penny per can of beer,” Edwards said before the House vote. “It’s simply the right thing to do under the circumstances.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards said House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, is having problems getting House members to follow his lead.
Ahead of the alcohol tax vote, Edwards had also criticized the House. He specifically said Barras didn’t appear to have control over votes in the House. It’s not clear whether the governor’s comments led to the House rejecting the alcohol tax, and Barras voting against it specifically.
On the House floor, Cox agreed to lower the alcohol taxes from what was contained in his bill initially. Cox and Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, said the proposed alcohol taxes needed to be dropped in order to get enough members to support the bill. But even that didn’t work.
Cox’s bill would have raised taxes on beer, wine, sparking wine and liquor starting April 1. His bill was initially supposed to raise $9 million to help with the current budget crisis and $27 million to deal with budget shortfall next year. After the tax increases were weakened, it would have raised $6.7 million for the current budget and $25 million for the next fiscal cycle.
Louisiana’s alcohol taxes are a little bit all over the map when compared to other states. If the bill had passed, Louisiana would have had some higher alcohol taxes than Texas and Arkansas, according to Cox. But its wine tax is currently one of the lowest in the country, he said.
The House did pass a relatively modest pieces of legislation, House Bill 28, also related to alcohol taxes. It would lessen the amount of money alcohol sellers get compensated for accurately gathering and reporting their sales taxes. But that legislation brings in just $190,000 for the current budget cycle and $750,000 for next year.