LSU Public Administration Institute director James Richardson has been chosen to assemble an independent panel of specialists to examine Louisiana’s current tax structure. Louisiana House of Representatives Speaker Chuck Kleckley called for the study.
Steven Sheffrin, director of Tulane University’s Murphy Institute, and James Alm, chair of Tulane’s department of economics, will be working with Richardson in organizing the study.
Richardson said the study will attempt to approach the tax structure from an academic perspective rather than a political perspective, and said he plans to recruit professionals like attorneys and accountants for the panel.
“We first have to figure out the right thing to do financially, and then figure out how to get it done in the political world,” Richardson said.
The goals of the study are to help point out the weaknesses in the state’s tax code, and to ensure no taxes are unfair to any specific demographic of the population, Richardson said.
Richardson said he was chosen because he has worked with the state legislature in the past, and because he was in charge of the last major analysis of the state’s tax code in the 1980s.
“I think legislators want us to give it a fresh look,” Richardson said. “About every 25 years is the right amount of time.”
For example, according to Richardson, a tax structure that places too much emphasis on the sales tax would hurt lower income families, while a tax structure with a disproportionately high income tax would be unfair to higher classes.
Richardson acknowledged legislators will not take heed of the panel’s findings overnight, but said he hopes some changes are made as a result of the study.
“They will do what their constituents are supportive of,” Richardson said.
University political science professor James Garand said Louisiana is not unique in its evaluation of their tax structure, and said many states reassess their tax codes.
Garand also speculated that Kleckley was not satisfied with the state’s current tax structure.
“I would be surprised if any politician called for a study of the tax system if they were in support of it,” Garand said.