For years, legislators in Louisiana have maintained a well-deserved reputation of irrelevance when it comes to substantively addressing a host of public issues. The mantra seems to be one of keeping a finger in the financial dike to get through the next fiscal year, and side stepping a host of idiosyncratic concerns that include bestiality, hair braiding and sports betting. But if you think Louisiana has an oddball legislature that leans toward quirky solutions to non- existent problems, check out California that has moved a notch ahead of us here in the Deep South.
Legislators were high fiving this week over the balancing of the state budget by increasing the already highest sales tax in the nation. Fully funding the TOPS tuition program for college students became the centerpiece for much of the discussion. But through all the euphoria of self-congratulation, lost in the shuffle was the failure to address or even discuss early childhood learning and funding the child-care assistance program.
Finally, after three special sessions and a regular one, it's time to relax, do the things that hard-working legislators (and governors) long to do after a long grueling hard-fought battle over the budget--pick up the pieces of one's life and, if at all possible, spend quality time with family, check out those hires burning at the office and hopefully take a moment of leisure.
The fiscal cliff, that seemingly insurmountable object in front of every legislative session since Bobby Jindal took his shot at taming the budget, is fixed. Yes, fixed. At least, on paper and hopefully, in reality, until perhaps, the next mid-decade.
The Louisiana legislators and governor, who have spent almost every day in session since mid-February of this year, have settled upon a budget deal that reduces the sales tax from five cents to 4.45 cents. Today, The Advocate reporter Tyler Bridges, who has been there with the legislators as each tick has tocked on the capitol clock, took a few moments to discuss with me--the session and the budget agreement. The interview occured via Facebook and Twitter Live.
Below is the video transcript of the relevant portions of the interview with Bridges, who will also soon post a "behind the budget deal scene" article for The Advocate.
According to a tweet by Times Picayune capitol bureau reporter Julia O'Donoghue, who knows, there might be some type of compromise in the legislature during the special session. The reporter indicated today that the "Talk is that the new sales tax rate that they will be trying to pass in the House is a 4.45 sales tax rate. That's between the 4.4 sales tax rate the House GOP wanted and the 4.5 sales tax rate".
Is there some way that Louisiana can gets its budgetary house in order? What is the problem? Did it begin under current Governor John Bel Edwards? Is Medicaid the culprit? Can we reform higher ed?
On Tuesday, I discussed the budget with former State Representative Brett Geymann, a budget hawk, who was term-limited and who left the legislature after the 2015 election. Geymann believes that the state budget should be tied to the economy and we will publish his thoughts on this tomorrow, as we went more into detail on that issue in the latter part of the Facebook, Twitter and Youtube Live discussion.
”The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” And according to politicians in both parties, they are out to infiltrate the entire U.S. election process. A special prosecutor is looking under every rock to find out the culprits involved. And down here in Louisiana, the Secretary of State’s office is calling for the immediate replacement of some 10,000 voting machines at a cost of $60 million. Wow! This looks like a really crisis. But is it?
Respectful and refreshing.
Those are the words that came to my mind after discussing the Louisiana budget issues with former conservative Republican House of Representative Brett Geymann of Lake Charles, this morning via Bayoubuzz’s Facebook, Twitter and Youtube Live.
If you had the dictatorial powers to fix the Louisiana budget, how would you do it? Raise taxes such as sales taxes? Increase the income taxes? Property taxes?
On Monday, hours prior to the Louisiana legislative special session, number three, started, i asked John Kay Jr., how would he fix the state's problem with the budget? Kay is the State Director for the Louisiana Chapter of the Americans for Prosperity organization, a group funded by the conservative Koch Brothers. It favors smaller government.
Today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards delivered this statement to the legislature as the 3rd fiscal session of the year commenced to fix the budget:
As prepared for delivery:
Today, the chairs of Louisiana's four public postsecondary systems - the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, the LSU System, the Southern University System Board of Supervisors, and the UL System, in conjunction with the Louisiana Board of Regents, sent a joint letter to seek funding for higher education and for TOPS..
With the Louisiana legislature revving up to start later this afternoon for its 3rd special session to deal with next year's budget which starts July 1 this year, here's the big question--will three be the charm? Actually, if you want to get technical, you can add the regular session to the mix, which would make four. However, that regular session prohibited raising any revenues since it was not a fiscal session, so, we won't count it to the tally.
Today, CABL (the Council for a Better Louisiana) issued a statement via email that supports the five cent sales tax that was proposed during the second special session this year in dealing with the budget. The letter is below:
The second special session of 2018 has come and gone, although it didn’t go quietly. The theatrics in the last hour of debate rivaled some of Hollywood’s greatest performances. But still, the dramatics were not worth the waste of time and, more importantly, not worth Louisiana taxpayers’ hard-earned money.