The fiscal cliff debate is revealing a wide range of opinions from within Louisiana’s Republican Party, ranging from moderates who support the governor’s call for a half cent sales tax renewal, to anti-tax conservatives who favor budget cuts to plug the 648 million dollar shortfall. River Ridge Representative Kirk Talbot, who supported a third penny but not a half, says the state needs to tighten its belt.

“I don’t see myself voting for a half a cent, were spending more money in this fiscal year than any budget in the history of Louisiana.

The difference between a half penny and a third penny sales tax on a 100 dollar purchase is 17 cents.

Talbot says the state’s budget has increased by seven percent for the last few years, a rate that is fiscally unsustainable. He says items like state worker pay raises need to be addressed before any taxes are renewed.

“We can’t afford pay raises right now, private sector wages are going down. Theres a lot of things we can do before we start raising the taxes that the governor wants.”

20 Republicans supported the third penny sales tax proposal that would have required over a 100 million in budget cuts.

But not all GOP legislators agree. 22 Republicans supported the half penny sales tax that would fully fund state agencies and TOPS. Shreveport Representative Thomas Carmody, who supported the half penny, says the state is obligated to fund critical services like TOPS.

“You have to make sure that you are funding not only the promise the state has made to the children who have worked hard to reach the bar, but you also have to make sure you cover the expenses to keep the public-private partnerships.”

Without additional revenue, the budget, now signed by the governor would cut TOPS by 30 percent, and slash agency budget for Education, Corrections, the Department of Children and Family Services, and more.

Carmody says despite support from a clear majority of legislators, the half penny sales tax will need another seven votes relative to the last time it was debated to clear the 70 vote super majority threshold for tax bills. He says the governor will need to reassure Republicans on the fence that the money is being spent responsibly.

“Some revenue has to be raised, but if you can’t get 70 for a half a penny, you have nothing.”

The session begins June 18th, and must end by June 27th at 6PM.

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