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(TAX) SHELTER FROM THE STORM

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Wednesday, June 5, 2007

New Orleans, Louisiana

(TAX) SHELTER FROM THE STORM

Louisiana needs a much longer Fourth of July holiday break. It’s a tax break I’m talking about, and it should let residents stock up on the storm supplies without having to pay any state sales tax. It’s officially hurricane season, so what better incentive for the locals to get better prepared than to give them a financial break?

The Louisiana legislature is now in session, and there are numerous tax reduction proposals that could be amended to put a tax free holiday in to effect. And there certainly is not any shortage of dollars in the state coffers. Such a 5 day tax pause would only cost the state treasury some estimated $10 million, which is chump change compared to the surplus dollars on hand now approaching $4 billion.

The idea would be to freeze the sales tax on July the 4th (a Wednesday) and allow 5 shopping days tax free. Let the department of Revenue specify a list of storm supplies. To be reasonable, a dollar limit would have to be put on the items sold. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Flashlights and other portable, self-powered light sources – $20 or less
  • Portable radios, two-way radios and weather-band radios – $75 or less
  • Tarps – $50 or less
  • Gas or diesel fuel containers – $25 or less
  • Batteries – $30 or less (AAA, AA, C and D cell, and 6 and 9 volt batteries)
  • Non-electrical food storage coolers – $30 or less
  • Portable generators – $1,000 or less
  • Carbon monoxide detectors – $75 or less
  • Storm shutter devices – $200 or less

Louisiana does have a tax holiday for school supplies in the fall. But with an active hurricane season predicted in the coming months, it just makes sense to encourage residents to be much more prepared. An aggressive sales pitch by the state would help unify the effort, and retail businesses certainly would appreciate the sales boom.

So there’s your plan legislators. I know that $10 million or so is a drop in the bucket with all you have to spend. But as you are spending millions on bicentennial celebrations, balloon festivals, and local social clubs, a few bucks saved for hurricane protection could make a big difference to many of your constituents. Any takers?

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On the Louisiana insurance front, legislators meeting in Baton Rouge are ignoring the successes that continue to grow in Florida. An aggressive Republican governor has worked closely with a conservative legislature to undertake a good bit of social insurance engineering. The Florida state run Citizens Insurance Company is competing head up with private insurers, and there are a variety of options for homeowners including joint underwriting associations where even subdivisions can participate.

Florida homeowners’ rates are dropping with Allstate asking for a 16% reduction just a few weeks ago. And five more companies have received approval to begin selling homeowners insurance throughout Florida.

In Louisiana, a different approach is working its way through the legislature. Corporate welfare subsidies and short term tax breaks are being offered as the solution. This same approach was rejected by Florida a few years ago for the simple reason that it did not work. And it will not work in Louisiana. Consumer protection ideas are nil, and the few creative solutions suggested were shot down by the insurance industry that carries a heavy hammer with a large number of legislators.

A real wasted opportunity. Look for the failure to act in Baton Rouge to be a major campaign issue this fall.

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Hurricane Katrina Quotes
Louisiana is a city that is largely under water.”
– Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, news conference, 9/3/05

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

3 Responses
  1. Hardy Parkerson

    Take the Tax off Storm Supplies, period. Not just for a few days around July 4. nd off of medicine too. Both RX medications and OTC medications. We are overtaxed in Louisiana, and the Legislature has so much money that it gives it by the thousands even to churches catering to members of the Black race. Whatever happened to the separation between church and state? There is more to it all than this, but this is something to think about.

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