Stelly Plan making comeback in La. races

Published 12:25 am Tuesday, October 4, 2011

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Three years have passed since lawmakers reversed the income tax hikes of the tax swap known as the Stelly Plan, but the issue isn’t dead, becoming a key point of attack in two statewide races.

Former Republican lawmakers who voted to raise taxes on some Louisiana residents are getting slammed in elections for lieutenant governor and secretary of state by GOP opponents who say the votes harmed Louisiana families and undercut claims of fiscal conservatism.

The Stelly Plan was a sweeping package named for its sponsor, then-Rep. Vic Stelly. Passed by lawmakers and voters in a 2002 constitutional change, the legislation eliminated sales taxes on groceries and residential utilities in exchange for increased income taxes on middle- and upper-income earners.

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The tax hikes were rolled back in 2007 and 2008 after backlash over the increases, and the sales taxes were kept off the books, a move that cut taxes by more than $600 million annually. But the issue continues to creep up in the Oct. 22 election.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Secretary of State Tom Schedler voted for the Stelly Plan when they were state senators, and Dardenne was a floor leader for the governor who helped pass the legislation.

Dardenne, of Baton Rouge, was gone from the Legislature by the time the income tax boosts were reversed, while Schedler backed the part of the reversal that passed while he was still in the Senate.

Lieutenant governor candidate Billy Nungesser says Dardenne supported “the worst tax package in the history of Louisiana,” and he’s listed it among several votes when he’s called Dardenne a “big taxin’ politician” in an attack ad.