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May 06, 2013

Lawmakers are trying to keep the public out of tax increase discussions
By Louisiana Department of Revenue Exec. Counsel Tim Barfield 

When it was first announced that I would lead Gov. Jindal's tax reform efforts, I was bombarded with concerns from many stakeholders about the "process." Statements such as "the end does not justify the means" and "do not ramrod these reforms through the Legislature" were common.

We assured stakeholders that our process would be transparent and thorough. We spent months meeting multiple times with hundreds of representatives covering dozens of industry groups, businesses, taxpayers advocates, nonprofit organizations, religious leaders and advocates for the poor and low-income taxpayers. We personally outlined our specific ideas with almost every member of the Legislature. 

Recent news reports reveal that a significant majority of members of the House of Representatives are poised to follow the leadership of an unlikely alliance of the Legislative Black Caucus and the Fiscal Hawks (purportedly conservative Republicans), who will be working to finalize a tax increase of an estimated $500 million. In what may be the ultimate irony, we understand that these House members will utilize a rarely used procedure called "a committee meeting of the whole" that will effectively avoid the typical committee hearing process. This removes the voice of the people from knowing exactly what these elected representatives are doing with their tax money. 

Is this transparency? Is this the process that will ensure the best outcome for Louisiana? Are the principles and processes that so many of my friends in the Legislature hold dear being subordinated to their desire to show their "independence" or "willingness to vote against the administration?" Is this the work of "Conservatives" in the Louisiana House of Representatives? Let's hope not!

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