BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana lawmakers Thursday gave final passage to an effort pushed by Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder to begin the centralization of the state’s sales tax collections, a long-sought goal of business organizations.
The constitutional change, which won unanimous support from the House and Senate, still needs to win support from voters in the Oct. 9 election — and it would only start the centralization process. Lawmakers would have to work out further details in a future session and pass them with a two-thirds vote.
The legislation was Schexnayder’s top priority for the session, and was backed with a major push from the powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
“We’ve been trying to get this done for nearly forty years, and today we did it,” Schexnayder said in a statement calling it a “big day for Louisiana.”
In Louisiana, parish officials ranging from sheriffs to school boards collect sales taxes charged on purchases and owed by businesses, with 58 separate entities involved. Schexnayder’s constitutional change would start the process to have those sales tax filings handled by an eight-member commission.
Supporters of Schexnayder’s proposal say Louisiana is one of only three states with a fragmented system. They argue it makes bookkeeping more difficult and expensive for businesses, while also complicating efforts to collect sales taxes from online purchases.
Several government watchdog groups and tax experts have urged consolidation. But it’s taken years to reach this point, amid opposition from local government officials.
To address those concerns, Schexnayder’s commission proposal would give the local school boards, municipal, sheriffs and police jury associations each a seat on the commission. The revenue department, the governor, the House speaker and the Senate president would each appoint one of the remaining four commission members.
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