Louisiana legislators haven’t had a salary increase since 1980 – a streak that will likely continue after the House Appropriations Committee on Monday struck down a bill by Rep. Joe Marino that would have more than doubled lawmakers’ base salary of $16,800 per year. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports that  many lawmakers believe they are underpaid, but most were unwilling to face the political risks of voting to raise their own pay in an election year.  

Marino argued that keeping a lid on legislative pay means that only legislators who are either wealthy, retired or self-employed can afford to hold the office. Rep. Daryl Deshotel, R-Hessmer, agreed with him. “This salary prohibits a true representation of all the people in our state,” said Deshotel, who is financially independent and donates his salary to charity. “The optics overshadow what is smart and what we should be doing.”

Note: Had legislative pay kept up with inflation since 1980, it would be nearly $60,000 today. In addition to their base salary, rank-and-file legislators also get a $6,000 per year expense allowance and a $161 per diem for each day they work at the Capitol. 

IRS takes on tax-prep companies
Americans spend more than $14 billion each year to prepare and file their tax returns using commercial services offered by companies TurboTax or H&R Block. Now the Internal Revenue Service is planning to disrupt that racket with a free service that will be piloted next year. As The Washington Post’s Jacob Bogage reports, it was made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act:

The Inflation Reduction Act granted the IRS $80 billion over 10 years to increase enforcement efforts for high-income earners, improve taxpayer services and modernize its technology. The Biden administration said the IRS needs the additional funds to catch up with sophisticated tax cheats and better serve low- and middle-income Americans entitled to a bevy of credits. … The agency plan also would allow taxpayers to solicit help from customer service representatives through secure online portals. That threatens to encroach on another area in which tax-prep companies try to differentiate themselves from the IRS by employing legions of accountants and other experts to serve filers in premium product lines or develop software tools to guide filers while completing their returns.

The tax-prep giants are fighting back, as the Post reports that TurboTax parent Intuit spent $1 million in the first quarter lobbying Congress, while H&R Block spent $720,000 over the same period.

The politics of abortion
Creating exceptions to Louisiana’s abortion ban for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest is widely popular with state voters. But legislative committees have quickly struck down bills to create such exceptions, preventing the debates from reaching the House floor. The Advocate’s James Finn reports that lawmakers are endangering women and doctors in order to protect themselves from having to take tough votes. 

As tensions mount over abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation this year, political jockeying has ensued over the abortion bills with lawmakers who oppose abortion access hoping to evade a public floor vote on the rape and incest exceptions. Having to publicly vote against such exceptions is seen as a political liability even for hardline conservative lawmakers, according to interviews with legislators on both sides of the political aisle.

The Senate on Monday advanced an income tax credit for controversial crisis pregnancy centers. As the Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reports, Sen. Beth Mizell’s Senate Bill 41 could cost the state as much as $5 million a year, starting in 2025, to subsidize a highly unregulated industry. But tax credit bills aimed at helping people with low incomes and families with young children have stalled in committee. 

Corporations score a win on carbon capture
Louisiana’s powerful petrochemical industry appears to have beat back legislative efforts to halt a controversial carbon-capture project planned for Lake Maurepas. The House on Monday shot down a pair of bills aimed at killing efforts by Air Products Corp. to build a series of carbon capture injection wells on the lake. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin explains that the bills had support from local residents, and Republican legislators from the area, but drew heavy opposition from industry groups and Gov. John Bel Edwards. 

The state’s powerful business lobby, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, told lawmakers in a memo Monday that Muscarello’s bill has implications that are “far-reaching and detrimental to the state.” Those same industry groups convinced a House committee to reject broader restrictions on carbon capture earlier in the session.

Number of the Day
83% – Percentage of Louisiana health care workers that are employed by for-profit businesses, which is the fourth-highest in the nation. For-profit health care dominates much of the South. (Source: Census Bureau’s American Community Survey via IPUMS via The Washington Post)