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Oct 18, 2010 7:35 PM by AP

Higher Education Budget Cuts

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The head of the state Senate's education committee said Monday he supports temporary tax increases or delays in tax breaks to stop budget cuts to public colleges and other educational programs.

Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, said he favors a reversal of tax breaks for middle- and upper-income taxpayers that were instituted before the national recession.

The tax breaks reversed the so-called "Stelly Plan" that had raised state income taxes for certain filers in exchange for getting rid of state sales tax on food and utilities. Lawmakers in recent years removed the Stelly tax hikes, but didn't reinstate the sales taxes.

Nevers, who voted to repeal the Stelly Plan, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that he supports reinstating Stelly taxes for two to three years, until the economy improves - and dedicating the money to education programs.

State House leaders and Gov. Bobby Jindal oppose such ideas, saying the state should reduce its spending instead of raising taxes or delaying tax cuts, and similar proposals have failed to gain traction in the House.

Nevers argued the types of budget cuts proposed, particularly for colleges, would be devastating to education in the poverty-stricken state. Without a new revenue source, he said, "The dismantling of education is the coffin to bury Louisiana for decades to come."

A spokesman for the governor repeated his stance against tax increases Monday, saying Louisiana ranks high for the money it spends on higher education as a percentage of state taxes but still has poor graduation results.

"So the answer is certainly not to raise taxes on the backs of Louisianians," Jindal press secretary Kyle Plotkin said in a statement.

Higher education has been hit with two years of state budget cuts, faces another round of midyear cuts and is bracing for cuts next year. Spending in elementary and secondary education, outside the funding formula to local school districts, also has taken a reduction, although a smaller one.

 

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