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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

WESTWEGO, La. -- For 26 years and counting, Louisiana governors have used their annual West Bank luncheon to lay out legislative priorities for the upcoming session.

Thursday, Gov. Bobby Jindal had only one -- his sweeping plan to overhaul the state tax code.

'We have 468 loopholes on the books today that make our system complex, volatile and unfair,' Jindal told the gathering of West Bank civic and business leaders at the Alario Center in Westwego.

In short, the governor wants to swap the state's personal income and corporate taxes for higher sales taxes. He also seeks to eliminate 200 tax exemptions.

'Eliminating income taxes will give more control to the tax payer,' Jindal said. 'Taxing what people spend, instead of what they earn gives taxpayers more control over their own money.'

Lawmakers in the audience say the governor's plan needs some work.

'I find a great deal of support to eliminate the state income tax and the corporate franchise tax,' said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego. 'But, the problem comes in on how do you replace those lost revenues without hurting education and healthcare and that's where the battle is going to come in.'

'We have to make sure that we're not affecting seniors in an adverse way,' said state Sen. David Heitmeier, D-Algiers. 'We need to make sure we're not effecting low income. I think we need to look at it, evaluate it, but in its present form we have some significant challenges moving forward.'

'The way we collect taxes is kind of silly,' said state Rep. Pat Connick, R-Marrero. 'That's got to change. But, it's still a big work in progress. I don't know if we can get it done.'

'I think the business people are concerned that it's going to cost them money and I think those details need to come out and we'll play it from there,' said state Rep. Bryan Adams, R-Terrytown.

This week the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry came out against the Jindal Tax plan. The group claims the tax swap would add an extra $500 million in taxes on business.

LABI is one of the most influential lobbying groups in Baton Rouge.

'Those that have lawyers and lobbyists, they benefit from the status quo,' said Jindal. 'They want the loophole. They want the exemptions.'

'At the same time corporate income tax and corporate franchise would be eliminated,' said Alario. 'That's close to $500 million also, so I guess they'll have to weigh it to see if there's a plus or minus overall.'

Lawmakers will debate the tax overhaul plan during the upcoming session which starts April 8.

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