Archive for June, 2011

‘Gov. Bobby Jindal "not fighting" cigarette tax extension grafted onto bill’

The Times-Picayune reports that the renewal of a four-cent cigarette tax is likely to win approval in the legislature, and then move on to a referendum before Louisiana voters.

Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego, said Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration has agreed not to try to strip the cigarette-tax language from his Senate Bill 53, which also would dedicate tobacco-settlement money to the TOPS college scholarship program.

“They’re not fighting it,” Alario said.

The House resurrected the cigarette tax this week by tacking it onto the TOPS amendment, which is a top priority for the governor and a key component of the state budget picture. It came after Jindal vetoed a separate bill that would have permanently extended the tax, which generates about $12 million a year, and the House failed to override the veto.

Jindal said extending the tax is the same as an increase and would violate his promise to oppose all tax increases. Although two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate had agreed to the bill, the governor was able to persuade 11 House members who supported the original bill to switch sides and vote against the override.

By adding the tax language to a constitutional amendment, supporters were able to circumvent a possible veto because amendments go straight to voters and do not require a governor’s signature.

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‘Income tax repeal bill near death’

The Advocate reports that a bill to repeal Louisiana’s state income tax has little chance of passing in the waning hours of the 2011 legislative session.

Despite a last-minute flurry of appeals, a bid to gradually repeal Louisiana’s personal income tax at a cost of $5.4 billion was floundering and near death in the Legislature on Wednesday.

The 2011 regular session has to end at 6 p.m. Thursday and the chief sponsor vowed to press on.

“I am going to try every hour on the hour,” said state Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete and chief sponsor of the plan, which is in Senate Bill 259.

But, despite repeated tries, Marionneaux was unable to clear a procedural hurdle Wednesday needed for the bill to get another hearing, and have any chance of final approval.

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‘Big, bad budget didn’t happen"

Jim Beam, in the Lake Charles American Press, opines that the worst-case budget scenarios predicted for the 2011 legislative session did not come to pass:

If you see any bodies at the bottom of the cliff, let me know. I haven’t found any yet.

We heard a lot about the state falling off a cliff because of a $1.6 billion shortage in the new budget year that takes effect July 1, but a spending plan has been approved and casualties are hard to find.

The House got the budget first and cut $200 million more than Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted. The governor’s troops hit the ceiling over that one, but the Senate came to the rescue when it got the spending plan.

Unlike all the king’s men and horses for Humpty Dumpty, the Senate was able to put the budget back together again.

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‘Fate of revived cigarette tax uncertain’

The Advocate reports:

The fate of legislation that added the renewal of a 4-cent cigarette tax onto a constitutional amendment to dedicate more tobacco settlement dollars to merit-based TOPS scholarships sat in limbo Tuesday because of indecision on how to move forward.

Senate Bill 53 sponsor state Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego, said Tuesday he is still discussing with colleagues whether he wants to concur or reject the House amendments that tacked the cigarette tax renewal onto the bill.

Alario must address the matter before the legislative session ends Thursday.

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‘$25 billion budget bill sent to governor’

The Louisiana House of Representatives sent a $25 billion operating budget to Governor Bobby Jindal for his signature, the Advocate reported Wednesday. The bill strips out measures to reduce state employees’ pay and selling state prisons.

By agreeing to the Senate’s changes to House Bill 1 on a 101-0 vote, the House avoided a behind-the-scenes showdown to strike a compromise in the final days of the legislative session.

Budget approval without opposition with two days to spare is a rare occurrence in the state.

HB1 funds state government operations in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“We have an instrument today that meets our needs (and) does not meet our wants,” said state Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, the budget bill’s sponsor.

Later in the day, Gov. Bobby Jindal praised the legislation as a budget that protects critical services such as health care and higher education. “The end result is a great budget for Louisiana,” the governor said.

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‘House refuses to override Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of cigarette tax extension’

From the Times-Picayune:

BATON ROUGE — As expected, the House of Representatives has declined to overturn Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of a bill to extend a temporary 4-cent levy on packs of cigarettes, with several Republicans and a handful of others siding with the GOP governor after voting for House Bill 591 when it moved through the legislature earlier this session.

Today’s 58-44 count fell short of the necessary 70 votes necessary to override the governor’s action.

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Revenue Information Bulletin 11-011: Natural Gas Severance Tax Rate

The Louisiana Department of Revenue has issued Revenue Information Bulletin (RIB) 11-011, which discusses the natural gas severance tax rate for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011:

The natural gas severance tax rate effective July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012, has been set at 16.4 cents per thousand cubic feet (MCF) measured at a base pressure of 15.025 pounds per square inch absolute and at the temperature base of 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

The full text of RIB 11-011 is available at revenue.louisiana.gov.

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2011 Louisiana State and Local Tax Workshop

Louisiana tax professionals:

“Get out from under the burden of tax issues and get up-to-date on everything going on at the state and local levels with regard to changes, incentives, and credits – all in one “gulp.” This in-depth workshop will cover new and potential changes in tax legislation, LDR changes, economic forecasting, and comprehensive information on state-specific tax credit and incentive programs. You’ll leave armed with information you can use immediately to help your clients plan for maximum tax benefits.”

This event is sponsored by the Society for Louisiana CPAs.  Learn more at LCPA.org

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LDR News Release – Free online filing help for businesses

BATON ROUGE – Free training is available for businesses who want to file their state taxes online with the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR).

 A series of online courses is available on the LDR website at www.revenue.louisiana.gov/courses.  They include an overview of the Louisiana Taxpayer Access Point (LaTAP), the state’s online portal for business tax filing; a tutorial on registering and filing severance taxes; and instructions for registering for International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) decals.

 These courses are free.  Find them under “Business Online Filing Help” at www.revenue.louisiana.gov/courses.

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LDR News Release – Protect tax records and financial documents during emergencies

BATON ROUGE – Protect tax records and financial documents from storms, floods, and other emergencies, the Louisiana Department of Revenue advises taxpayers.

 The 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season began on June 1.  The National Weather Service says there is a 65 percent chance of an above-normal season.  Early preparation is the key to making sure your family, property, and important personal records remain safe.

 Keep Documents Secure

 Water damage poses a particular threat to paper records.  In advance of a storm or flood, protect these documents by placing them in airtight containers and moving them out of harm’s way.

 Use Paperless Media

 Most bank statements and other financial documents are available as electronic records from your financial institution.  Preserve these data by burning them to CDs or saving them to portable memory drives. 

 Scan important paper records such as W-2s, payroll records, and tax returns into an electronic format.  Many commercially available home printers include easy-to-use scanning features.

 In addition, some web-based e-mail services such as Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Hotmail offer free online document storage.  You can upload your electronic records directly from your home computer and download them again from any machine with Internet access.

 Document Valuables and Business Equipment

 Compile a room-by-room list of your belongings or business equipment.  Photograph or videotape the contents of your home or business, especially items of high value.

 Having a visual record of your valuables can provide proof for an insurance claim.  It can also help to verify a loss claim on state and federal tax returns.

 In the event of a disaster, the Department of Revenue can provide information on potential tax deductions or credits, filing extensions, and other tax-related matters.  Bookmark www.revenue.louisiana.gov as the source for state tax-related information.

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