The committee that forecasts how much money the state will bring in for the Legislature to spend found a nearly $35 million shortfall when it met last week. The administration's plan to close the gap will use money from a tax amnesty that waived penalties on back-owed taxes to encourage delinquent taxpayers to settle their debts.
State law provides a way to make the switch, but some fiscally conservative lawmakers have doubted the constitutionality of using
a source that doesn't occur annually, such as profits from the sale of state property and court settlements, on expenses that recur.
Last session, some of those lawmakers argued the amnesty dollars should fall into that category since that kind of program brings in a large sum all at once. But Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, who is second-in-command on the Senate's budget committee, disagrees.
"It's semantics," Chabert said. "Are they not tax dollars owed to the state?"
Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, sponsored the legislation that created the amnesty.
Robideaux, who earns a living as a CPA, said legal disputes over taxes often delay payments the state eventually collects.
"We don't collect taxes all at once," Robideaux said. "We count those as recurring. Just because it falls in an amnesty window does not make it non-recurring."
The amnesty, Robideaux said, simply jump-started the process in some cases.
In the past, fiscal conservatives