No Deal: Special Session Ends

“Usually the day after session is a day of relaxation after a long few months of hard work and a little late night celebration,” said Keli Williams, with Ourso Consulting.

“Last night was a late night, but there was no celebration. With the last 30 minutes of the special session, which had to end at midnight, the House began taking up the budget bill, HB 1, and the revenue bills, HB 12 and HB 27.”

This special session was the second session and the sixth financial session in the last two years, attempting to deal with the state’s budget crisis when more than $1 billion in taxes are scheduled to expire on June 30. The earlier special session floundered after the house repeatedly rejected increased taxes. At the same time, dramatic cuts in health care services and what the Governor called “could face a catastrophic cut” to higher education had been threatening.

This week the House approved HB 1 but it makes dramatic cuts to TOPS, universities and state agencies, and is similar to the budget that the Governor previously vetoed, explained Williams to the Times.

But the deal collapsed when lawmakers failed to take up the two revenue bills that would have filled the gaps, something the Governor put forth in his hoped for compromise plan.

“HB 12 and HB 27 were both sales tax measures that would have increased the sales tax by 1/2 to 1/3 penny, respectfully, and cleaned some exemptions from the remaining pennies,” said Williams.

“Neither bill was able to gain enough support to pass before midnight,” she said. “With two minutes left, HB 12 was brought up for reconsideration. Rep. Seabaugh went to the microphone to oppose the bill for the purposes of running out the clock, per his own statement at the microphone. A second vote on HB 12 was not taken as time expired.”

As of publication there is no news yet about another special session.

This past weekend the Senate Finance Committee put forth a measure that would begin in July and would cover over $500 million of the state’s $600 million problem.

This is more than the house wanted to cover but not the entire amount that was asked for by Gov. Edwards.

In a May 25 statement Gov. Edward said, “We have a very short window left to fix the fiscal cliff and fund our critical priorities. Right now, the Senate is waiting on bills to come from the House and, with the clock ticking, any day not spent solving this crisis is simply unacceptable to the people of Louisiana. I am here and ready to work, and I’d hoped that the House would do the same. While I’m disappointed that we haven’t made more progress to close the budget gap, the fact that a majority of both the Republican and Democratic caucus members supported renewing a portion of the expiring revenue gives me hope that we can come to an agreement very soon.”

The Republican delegation responded On May 29, “Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the Republican Spending Reduction Plan that makes sure our critical services like nursing homes and hospitals are funded by renewing one-third of the one-cent sales tax and requires government to reduce it’s spending by 1.3%.”

“The basis for our compromise is that government reduce its spending. Asking state government to cut its spending by 1.3% is not unreasonable. We simply cannot continue to grow the size of government while Louisiana’s GDP is shrinking, businesses are leaving and our population is falling. Again, asking government to reduce its spending by 1.3% is not unreasonable, it’s the most responsible thing we can do.”

In Gov. Edwards’ 2018 Second Special Session opening remarks he said, “The House of Representatives and the Senate passed wildly differing budgets. One completely decimated health care in Louisiana, the other funded health care but decimated higher education and other critical state services like education and public safety, while ignoring that a nearly 25 percent cut to our state agencies would leave thousands of our fellow Louisianans out of work and our agencies unable to do their work.” He asked them to do better.

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