The Associated Press November 19, 2010, 11:18AM ET

New group urges change to La. budget discussion

Gov. Bobby Jindal and state lawmakers should consider repealing some of Louisiana's more than $7 billion in tax breaks instead of just turning to budget cuts to make ends meet, a group of unions, nonprofit organizations and health care advocates said Thursday.

The newly formed organization, called Better Choices for a Better Louisiana, said the administration and legislators need to look at reducing "tax code spending" -- not just budget cuts -- to close a $1.5 billion budget gap in the 2011-12 budget year that begins July 1.

"We need a more balanced approach to solving Louisiana's budget problems," said Edward Ashworth with the Louisiana Budget Project, a member of the new organization that looks at how government spending affects low- to moderate-income families.

Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said there must be a broader conversation about what can be done to fill budget gaps, rather than a consistent expectation that cuts are the only answer.

Leaders of the organization sent letters Thursday to Senate President Joel Chaisson and House Speaker Jim Tucker, asking them to put a moratorium on new tax breaks while the state's budget troubles continue and to review the more than 400 existing tax credits and exemptions for possible reversal.

Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin said the governor will oppose any tax break repeals, equating them to tax increases.

"We will fight against attempts at tax increases and will force government to live within its means, just like Louisiana families and businesses have to do," Plotkin said in an e-mail.

The group's formation comes as pressure grows to find ways to offset deep budget cuts expected for public colleges and health care services in the upcoming fiscal year.

Among the 18 organizations listed as members in Better Choices for a Better Louisiana are the Agenda for Children, Children's Defense Fund, the LFT, the Louisiana chapter of the AFL-CIO, the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations, the Louisiana Primary Care Association, the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Louisiana NAACP.


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