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The Advertiser: Council will discuss sales-tax rebate tonight - Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Written by Nicholas Persac

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The City-Parish Council will discuss possibly eliminating a 2 percent rebate given to local retailers for paying sales-tax collections on time during tonight's meeting, which will be held in the Ted A. Ardoin auditorium at 705 W. University Ave. at 5:30 p.m. Members of the public wishing to address the council on the matter should fill out a blue comments card and submit it to the council's clerk before the meeting begins. At a meeting tonight, the City-Parish Council and the business community will discuss whether the local government should continue giving a 2 percent rebate to retailers who submit sales-tax collections on time.

Last month, the council indefinitely postponed a vote that could have eliminated the rebate in order to give the community more time to discuss the proposal. Tonight, Councilman Don Bertrand, District 7, will sponsor a discussion on the rebate, and he said Monday he expects the council to vote on the rebate's repeal within the next month.

"Councilmen [Kevin] Naquin and [Jay] Castille make a strong argument for repealing it," Bertrand said Monday. "I want to hear from the retailers what the basis for having it is, and then I'll make a decision."

Discussion of the rebate comes at a time when Lafayette Consolidated Government officials are struggling to find new revenues to help plug holes in a tight budget. Eliminating that rebate would bring the city of Lafayette an additional $1.4 million annually, and the parish of Lafayette would gain $104,000 each year.

The proposal to eliminate the rebate drew opposition from both the Louisiana Restaurant Association's Acadiana Chapter and the Louisiana Retailers Association.

"Vendors are expected to timely and accurately collect and remit sales taxes and submit to audits," Jessica Elliott, the Louisiana Retailers Association's director of government affairs, said in an email Monday. "Vendors allocate considerable resources to collect sales tax from consumers and send those tax dollars to the appropriate government entity. The vendors' compensation allowance provides a small rebate and should be retained."

Rob Guidry, president and CEO of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, said Monday that although his organization asked the council to delay its vote, the chamber has taken no position.

"The Chamber has identified certain sectors of the economy that are most affected by the removal of the rebate and have alerted them to council's consideration," Guidry said in an email. "Those sectors are automobile dealers and restaurants owners and operators, who have gone into action to combat the elimination."

Councilman Kevin Naquin, District 1, said he cannot support any new or increased taxes until the vendors' compensation rebate is eliminated.

"The money we're giving back to the businesses is supposed to be used for government services," Naquin said.

"When you open a business in America today, you all of a sudden become a tax collector...

"I hear 'cut, cut, cut [spending]' from the tea party and other people, and this is a program I find we're overspending on. We're giving money back to the businesses for simply doing what every business in America is supposed to do."

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