BATON ROUGE — The author of the primary tax bill designed to mitigate Louisiana's budget crisis said changes made by a Senate panel late Wednesday night could doom the measure and crash the session.
House Bill 27 by Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, which would levy a one-third-cent sales tax and eliminate some sales tax breaks for business, was amended by the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee to add more than $300 million in taxes to industry.
"It won't pass the House," Harris told the committee after the amendments.
He reiterated that Thursday morning after a night of reflection. "I guarantee it."
Overnight the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry also lashed out in a press release with the headline: "Senate Committee Supports Crushing Blow to Struggling Economy."
Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to close next year's $648 million shortfall with new taxes. That's more than the Republicans, who hold a strong majority, have been willing to give through two Special Sessions and one Regular Session.
Edwards' staff has been pressing the Senate to amend Harris' bill upward to a half-cent sales tax.
That could still happen when the full Senate hears the bill Friday.
"I don't understand the thinking of the House," Edwards said earlier this week. "The range of disagreement is narrow. A half-cent would fund all of our priorities."
The shortfall was created because $1.4 billion in temporary taxes expire on June 30. Next year's fiscal year begins July 1. Most of the $1.4 million comes from a temporary one-cent sales tax, which raises more than $800 million annually.
Panel members pressed Harris on a compromise. "You tell us, 'It's this or nothing,'" said Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria. "That's not compromise."
But Harris wouldn't be moved, saying his bill was a compromise.
"I will vote against the bill personally (if it's changed drastically)," he said. "I would not vote for the bill, and I feel like the majority of Republicans in the House would not."
If the bill is amended, it would take a two-thirds majority in the House, or 70 votes, to pass the measure.
Harris withstood a barrage of hostile questions from senators. In the end, Luneau thanked Harris for allowing himself "to be raked over the coals."
The committee also approved House Bill 18 by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, to continue for five years a limitation on tax breaks people can take for taxes paid in other states. It was set to expire June 30 and would raise about $34 million.
The Special Session must end Monday, but a third Special Session of the spring could be called if the budget crisis isn't resolved.