House reverses itself, passes income tax reform amendment

The House overwhelmingly passed Rep. Stuart Bishop's income tax reform bill after it failed to advance earlier this week. Photo by Robert Buckman

In a dramatic reversal from yesterday’s vote in which the much-debated constitutional amendment to remove the federal income tax deduction from the state’s personal income tax fell short of the needed two thirds, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed the measure 98-2.

The bill, HB274 by Rep. Stuart Bishop, R.-Lafayette, failed to pass Wednesday on a 66-26 vote, four votes short of the 70 needed for passage. 

Bishop asked for a reconsideration Thursday, but appeared less testy than he did Wednesday, when he reacted angrily to pressing questions from opponents. 

“It still has a long way to go and not much time left to do it,” he told his colleagues. 

He asked for questions, but unlike Wednesday, there were none. He then called for the vote.

“This is one of the most comprehensive bills for the tax reform that we’ve been talking about for years,” Bishop said, “This is the year. I want to thank you for your understanding. It’s got to be our No. 1 goal.”

The two Lafayette Parish representatives recorded absent on Wednesday’s vote, Democrat Vincent Pierre and Republican Julie Emerson, were both present Thursday and voted for the amendment. 

The House then passed a companion bill, SB159 by Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, which would remove the existing personal income tax brackets placed in the constitution in 2003 so they could be replaced by new ones in Bishop’s HB278, which the House passed Wednesday 70-24. SB159 passed 91-2. It passed the Senate last month 36-3. 

HB278 lowers the rates to be paid by individuals for the first $12,500 of net income (after credits) from 2% to 1.85%; on the next $37,500 of net income from 4% to 3.5%; and on any amount over $50,000 from 6% to 4.25%.

It also allows 100% of medical expenses claimed on federal income tax returns to be deductible from the state income tax.

Residents who itemize their federal deductions would have seen their state income tax go up somewhat, while those who take the standard deduction would have enjoyed a modest decrease, according to the bill’s digest.

If SB274 passes the Senate with a two-thirds vote, it and SB159 will go before the voters for ratification on Nov. 8, 2022.