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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Watercraft tax deleted from legislation

Watercraft tax deleted from legislation

Bill would have jeopardized a huge revenue source for local governments

Legislation that would have put in jeopardy a revenue source for local governments was pulled from consideration late last week as local officials presented a united front against the legislation.

The bills, introduced by State Senator Bret Allain (R- Franklin), would have repealed a series of taxes and credits paid to local governments by offshore service vessel (OSV) operators and replaced the funding with a newly created state fund to take the place of the tax payments.

However, members of the Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, after hearing from a chorus of local officials, decided that the legislation needed further consideration, at which point Senator Allain pulled the bills in return for a study committee to look deeper into the issue.

The tax and subsequent rebate means as much as $85 million annually in ad valorem taxes to both Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, a figure that would decimate local governing bodies if it were lost.

At a Sunday night hearing on the House version of the legislation last week, Lafourche Parish Assessor Wendy Thibodeaux testified against the legislation as both Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle and Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove worked legislators behind the scenes.

The method apparently worked on the House side as the OSV language was subsequently amended out of the House bills, and, this time with Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre testifying against Allain’s Senate version late last week, the Senate versions were pulled from consideration.

“Lafourche and Terrebonne presented a united front against this legislation and with the great assistance from our assessor and our sheriff and their respective associations, the proposed bill was defeated,” Cantrelle said.

Allain noted that he would keep the issue alive through the study committee until a resolution to the issue was found.

The special session must end no later than March 9.

Legislators are seeking ways to fill an approximate $950 million shortfall in this year’s budget and the regular legislative session set to begin in a couple of weeks must address a $2 billion shortfall in next year’s state budget.