White: Tax votes were tough decisions

Published 10:58 am Monday, April 4, 2016

Besides April Fools Day bringing its usual foolishness, Friday introduced a wave of tax hikes across the state, intended to make up a budget gap of almost $1 billion.

The tax hikes included higher sales tax, higher rental car tax and some losses of exemptions for businesses.

State Rep. Malinda White said on Friday she wasn’t happy with the taxes, but she had little choice, because not supporting tax hikes would have meant severe budget cuts that would have wrecked the parish’s economy.

“Nobody wants to make those cuts,” she said.

The proposed cuts included Our Lady of the Angels Hospital, cuts to the Rayburn Correctional Center budget and cuts to higher education, which would have included Northshore Technical Community College.

“Where you would like us to cut,” she asked. “We need all those services.”

White pointed out that the state still faces large budget holes that lawmakers will have to fill in a special session after the regular session is completed.

White estimated the state will face a “$700 to $750 million deficit,” and she said the local hospital is still on the chopping block for closure.

If the hospital were to close, White said over 500 employees would be out of work and area residents would lose a critical care hospital. Without that hospital, some residents, particularly those in the northern part of the parish, would have a longer drive before they could get service.

“You don’t have an hour-and-a-half in a life-or-death situation sometimes,” she said.

Likewise, she said the community college and the prison cannot face more cuts.

“Prisoners can’t watch themselves and we need the employment for the area and we need good security there,” she said of RCC.

Balancing local need with tax hikes meant, White said, some tough calls.

“I know some of my votes aren’t popular but I am doing it for the services provided for my constituents,” she said.

She added that the philosophy of no new taxes was former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s platform and it didn’t work. White is a Democrat while Jindal was a Republican.

“I will not continue to vote for a plan that did not work and that would be voting no for every revenue measure there is,” she said.

White added that some of the taxes, including the sales tax, have sunset provisions in them, meaning they may not be permanent. In the meantime, as the state’s revenues and expenses fall closer in line, White encouraged lawmakers to work for the common good.

“Nobody wants to increase taxes but nobody wants to shut down critical service,” she said.

State Sen. Beth Mizell could not be reached for comment by press time.