Tax up for talks next week

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A proposed $1-a-pack cigarette tax increase pushed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco should make to the House floor for debate next week, state Rep. Bryant Hammett said Wednesday.

Under Blanco’s plan, teachers would get an $1,800 pay raise in the 2005-06 school year, support workers like cafeteria workers and teacher aides would get a $500 pay raise, and college professors would get a 5 percent pay raise.

With another $500 across-the-board teacher pay raise proposed for next year’s public school funding formula, teachers would get an estimated $2,300 raise in the upcoming school year, according to the Associated Press.

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But Hammett, D-Ferriday and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said getting the tax increase passed may be harder than originally thought.

&uot;I’ve been working the House floor, but it’s not as easy a fight as I would like,&uot; Hammett said. &uot;It’s not going to be a slam dunk, Š although it would go for a teacher pay raise to bring us closer to the Southeastern average.&uot;

Another bill that’s high on Hammett’s list of priorities for this session is one that would trim the state’s movie tax credit program, saving an estimated $25 million to be used for other economic development programs.

The movie tax credit program, as it now stands, &uot;is hurting us more than it helps us,&uot; Hammett said.

Those programs include tax credits for Louisianans investing in new in-state businesses. It would cost an estimated $14 million over five years.

4Corporate tax breaks for Louisiana-based businesses, at an estimated $16 million for five years.

4Raising the state research and development tax credit from 8 percent to 20 percent, at a cost of less than $1 million.

Two other economic development bills would set up a fund the state could tap to offer incentives to industrial prospects even when the Legislature is not in session and a bill giving the governor greater powers to negotiate to keep businesses from moving out of the state, Hammett said.