Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Tax expenditures" are draining the state

This is an important concept: tax breaks are tax expenditures. Every tax exemption and every tax credit costs the state money. As this Advocate column by Lanny Keller points out, Louisiana spends some $7 billion a year on tax expenditures, while tax revenue - the amount actually collected by the state - is about $8 billion.

We give back in tax breaks almost as much as we collect in taxes. That has been well-documented by the Louisiana Budget Project.

Imagine the shape our state would be in if lawmakers would rein in those expenditures by just a few percentage points. One-seventh of the giveaway would pretty much solve our problems.

As Keller notes, some, perhaps even many, of the tax breaks are necessary to protect vulnerable citizens. Those would certainly include sales tax breaks on food, prescription drugs, home utilities, etc.

Others may be important incentives to bring jobs to the state.

Problem is, as the column says, none of these billions of dollars in tax expenditures is ever reconsidered. Some have long outlived their usefulness, and yet they continue to cost the state money.

That ought to be considered as we slash funding for education, health care, recreation and other quality-of-life issues that are also very important in attracting businesses and jobs to the state.

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