DALLAS — Cut state income taxes now and worry about how to pay for it later, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday at his first news conference after halting his quest for an immediate end to the personal and corporate levies.
The House Ways and Means Committee will begin hearings this week on more than a dozen tax policy bills, including one that would phase it out over 10 years through annual 10% cuts in the rate.
All options are open, Jindal said, except for measures that would raise more revenue than would be lost from cutting the income tax.
"I would be opposed to anything that would be a net increase," Jindal said. "Don't do it in a way that raises taxes."
Figuring out how to replace the lost revenue does not have to be accomplished by the 2013 Legislature, Jindal said.
"Right now, the first week of session, I'm more than happy to talk to legislators," he said. "I'm not putting up any veto threats. I'm not voicing any opposition."
"We're not putting up any barriers to these bills," Jindal said. "Our point is we want to get rid of the income tax.
Jindal had proposed a $3.6 billion tax swap to eliminate the income tax as of Jan. 1 while maintaining collections at current levels with a higher sales tax and fewer credits and exemptions. At the opening of the 2013 Legislature on April 8, Jindal said he would "park" the tax swap but maintained his call for an end to the income tax.
"We're open to talking with any legislator that's interested in doing that and working with any legislator that's interested in doing that and any outside group that's interested in getting that done," he said Thursday.
"We're open to serious discussion," Jindal said. "We're not interested in political games. I'm confident that by the end of the session, we will find a way to get rid of income tax."
House Speaker Charles Kleckley said Thursday he backed a bill by Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, to eliminate the income tax over 10 years. However, Kleckley said the phase out should begin Jan. 1, 2015 rather than 2014 as proposed by Greene.
With the extra time, Kleckley said, lawmakers could have another year to adopt a tax plan that would offset the lost revenue by eliminating exemptions or raising the cigarette tax. Phasing in the lower rates could even be delayed in an emergency, he said.
"If we hit a lean time or lean years or we have an oil spill or we have a hurricane, then we can take and suspend it for another year or two years," Kleckley said Thursday.
An analysis of House Bill 2710 by the Legislative Fiscal Office said the annual 10% rate cut would cut revenues by $4.1 billion over the first five years, ranging from $78 million in 2014 to $1.6 billion in 2015.
Some higher taxes may be needed as the income tax dwindles away, Kleckley said, and some current tax exemptions might have to go. The House must respond responsibly and reasonably to Jindal's call to end the income tax, he said.
"While I do support the elimination of the personal income tax, I think it's very, very important that we replace it with something," he said.