Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Courier of Houma on the state Supreme Court deciding that a 2015 tax credit law change is unconstitutional:
Back in 2015, the state government changed the tax law to take away a credit for taxes paid to other states.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled last week that the change is unconstitutional, meaning that the state had no right to the $30 million extra it collected each year since it was implemented.
Louisiana used to allow businesses that paid taxes in other states a credit. Essentially, the law used to avoid double taxation on businesses that operate in multiple states. The 2015 change created a situation where those businesses are being double taxed.
The court ruled in favor of the businesses that sued.
However, Louisiana has no plans to pay back the money it unconstitutionally taxed from these businesses. That is clearly unfair.
If the state had no right to that money in the first place, it should give it back now that the court has declared true what the bill’s detractors claimed in 2015.
Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case.
Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson said last week that only companies and people who paid the tax “under protest” would be allowed now to seek refunds.
There is an issue of fairness here. And there is also a question of incentive.
People and businesses that operate in Louisiana have a vested interest in their government behaving honorably. And in behaving honorably, the state will not alienate the people and businesses that are here.
If the state just keeps the proceeds when it is caught taxing these entities unconstitutionally, it has no reason to refrain from doing so in the future. And people should not have to pay their taxes under protest to later have a right to reclaim money that was taken from them outside the constitutional scope of government.
Of course, paying back all the money would be an expense. But the Legislature could prioritize paying for the rightful return of money it never should have taken. The money that is in question here is enough to make a big difference to small companies.
And however big these companies are, they deserve to pay only what they owe.
To demand any more of them than that, whether they protested their tax bills or not, flies in the face of the notion of good government.
The Advocate on collecting sales taxes:
Louisiana governments at every level, in cities and parishes and the State Capitol, are heavily dependent on sales tax revenues.
Then why don’t we collect them better? Politics and entrenched local interests are part of the reason.
Ten states began charging sales taxes on internet purchases Monday, but Louisiana wasn’t one of them because leaders are still working on efforts to modernize its collecting system.
We commend the members of the clunkily named Sales Tax Streamlining and Modernization Commission, who have been beavering away on this complex problem for several years.
And if all goes according to plan, Louisiana taxpayers could be charged sales taxes on online purchases by Jan. 1, 2019. The new system is being created through the Louisiana Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers, under the Department of Revenue, at the Legislature’s direction.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 23 South Dakota v. Wayfair ruling overturned a two-decade ban on taxing internet purchases from sellers in other states. Unless, of course, there were stores of the company in a state, so Louisiana taxpayers have contributed something to internet sales tax growth during that period.
Still, Louisiana’s system has been a mess for a long time. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation determined that Louisiana and Colorado would have the most hurdles to overcome before they could begin collections due to the states’ “duplicative, outdated, inconsistent and inefficient” sales tax collection mechanism.
The state streamlining commission is discussing ways to make the sales tax system, which is currently operated on a parish-by-parish collection representing some 370 jurisdictions, more uniform across-the-board, said its chairwoman, state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner.
After three special sessions, the Legislature agreed to set the state sales tax rate at 4.45 percent. It had been 5 percent for the past two years and would have dropped to 4 percent on July 1 had the Legislature not approved the continued hike.
Stokes said that while legislators fought over what sales tax rate would help shore up the state’s finances, many didn’t notice that the state had effectively created some reform within the sales tax code by suspending many of the sales tax exemptions.
That’s progress, but not nearly enough. Louisiana is a long way from significant reforms, include a uniform collection system for sales tax. The problem is that local political jobs are at stake.
More exemptions ought to be whittled away, too. That is challenged, of course, by those having to pay more tax.
The plethora of taxing authorities that larger businesses in Louisiana have to deal with is a long-standing issue. Centralized collection, as the high court said, ought to be a goal for Louisiana’s leaders in this area of the law.
American Press of Lake Charles on dual enrollment for high schoolers to also earn college credit:
Dual enrollment that gives Louisiana’s high school students opportunities to earn high school and college credit at the same time isn’t where it needs to be. However, education officials are aware of the shortcomings and appear to be ready to tackle the problems.
Among the missing pieces are a statewide plan and uneven access to the program, according to a report in The Advocate. The state Board of Regents and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held a joint meeting to discuss the issue.
National standards indicate Louisiana was late to the game, the newspaper said. One problem has been earlier emphasis on using the program only for gifted students.
Another issue is the fact some students pay nothing for the classes while others are charged as much as $800 per course. Rural area students say they don’t enjoy the same access available for students living in cities.
Kim Hunter Reed, state commissioner of higher education, said, “For a number of students, it is exposure and an opportunity to go from ‘I am not sure I am college material’ to a self-talk that ‘I can do it.’ ”
During the 2017-18 school year, 31,517 students were enrolled in dual education. That is up from 19,716 a decade ago. However, only 23 percent of high school students are taking college courses. Another concern is the fact only 21 percent of the total are black students who make up 44 percent of the high school population.
John White, state superintendent of education, said the state should ensure tuition fees are not blocking enrollments. He said more should be done to get youngsters from all backgrounds ready for the courses.
Regional, technical and community colleges handle 81 percent of dual enrollment. The University of Louisiana System has 43 percent of the total, or 13,360 students.
Jim Henderson, president of that system, said regional colleges have formed robust relationships with local school systems. He said that is what makes it possible to have an effective dual enrollment program.
The Louisiana Community and Technical College System handles 38 percent of those taking college courses, or 12,062 students.
The ability to finance dual enrollment is another major problem. Unfortunately, many of tomorrow’s leaders are the losers when funding isn’t found.