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Tuesday, 16 January 2018 09:57

Governor Edwards slams GOP conservatives for no plan for fiscal cliff

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edwards presser mar9The war of words over how to deal with a budget deficit or otherwise in Louisiana annual parlance, the fiscal cliff, is mounting as the temporary sales tax comes to an end this week. The sales tax brings roughly one billion dollars into the state coffers. 

Today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has taken to the press pulpit to argue that Republican moderates want a plan presented by their members but the fiscal conservatives refuse to present one, thus, a budgetary showdown that will result in major reductions in government spending.

 

Below is a press comment from the governor on the issue. Also below are two tweets from conservatives and republicans from  on the issue of the budget and fiscal cliff.

But he’s [Barras] hopeful enough lawmakers will be on board with tax proposals to have the special session before the March start of the regular session...Waiting until after the regular session ends in June, Barras said, would “put ourselves at a huge disadvantage.” “You’d leave 20 agencies hanging until a week before the fiscal year begins. I think there’s a better way to do that,” he said.

Barras said conversations with House members are covering a wide array of tax types, along with the state’s multibillion-dollar tax break programs. “I think you’ll see that skinny up into probably a little bit more — by process of elimination — the 10, 12, 15 items that we think possibly make up the menu that could close that fiscal cliff,” he said. [Associated Press, September 13, 2017]


That was only four months ago.  Now, it appears House leadership is once again banking on kicking the can down the road.  This time, however, at the end of that road is a steep cliff.

For nearly two years, legislators have known that a “fiscal cliff,” the point at which temporary revenue would expire, was on the horizon.  The cliff is a result of the legislature approving short-term revenue measures without passing long-term reforms that provide stability and predictability to the state. After six legislative sessions, no real reform measure has made its way to the governor’s desk.  As Gov. Edwards says, “you shouldn’t have to dangle your toes off the cliff to know it’s there.”

In 2016, the legislature created a bipartisan task force of elected officials, community and business leaders, and economists who set out to study the state’s budget practices and tax structure.  Over the course of the year, the task force spent more than 120 hours examining the state’s finances before submitting a list of reasonable and responsible recommendations to the legislature.

After traveling the state from the summer of 2017 through the fall of 2017, Gov. Edwards submitted a detailed plan to address the fiscal cliff that mirrored the recommendations of this bipartisan task force. The release of the plan was meant to jumpstart negotiations with House members who routinely stand in the way of real reform.  Despite having spent the months following the 2017 legislative sessions engaged in their own closed door meetings around the state and publicly stating they would engage in this process, House members still have not put forth a plan of their own. With the deadline to call a special session quickly approaching and House members seemingly only interested in playing politics, the people of Louisiana should demand answers to important questions such as:

 

 

Ø  How do House Republicans propose we do to avoid the fiscal cliff?

  •   If they aren’t satisfied with Gov. Edwards’ plan, will they submit a plan of their own?
  • Without action from the legislature, $1 billion of the state’s $3 billion in discretionary spending will have to be cut before July 1, 2018. Are the people of Louisiana to assume that, given the lack of alternative plan offered to avoid the fiscal cliff, the House Republican plan is to have us go over the cliff? If so, what specific cuts are these House members willing to impose on the people of Louisiana if they will not replace the revenue we’re losing?

Look how far we’ve come since the first special session in 2016, when the governor and lawmakers grappled with a $2 billion shortfall left over from the previous administration:

  • Unemployment is at 4.7% - its lowest point since May 2008
  • Higher education avoided being cut for the first time in a decade, and more importantly, we’re seeing dramatic increases in the number admissions requests for our universities and technical colleges for next fall.
  • The last fiscal year ended with a budget surplus of more than $120 million, and for the first time in at least eight years, the state has not faced any mid-year budget cuts.

Click here to read the governor's plan of action for fixing our broken tax system, stabilizing the budget and avoiding the fiscal cliff.

What they’re saying:
“It just boils down to simple politics,” said state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, a leader among Republican moderates. “The Republicans don’t want John Bel to have a win. The real losers are Louisiana citizens. We have to get beyond politics and solve the problems.” [The Advocate: As fiscal cliff looms, some moderate Republican lawmakers want their leaders to offer a budget plan, January 13, 2018]


“Among those who he said are watching are credit rating agencies, which must assess whether the state will have enough money to meet its debt obligations. Private sector employers that rely on government — including the hospitals that are part of the state's relatively new public/private partnerships — need to know whether to prepare required layoff notices should they be forced to make cuts in July, he said. Potential state university students and their parents are wondering whether the TOPS scholarships and Go Grants they've been told they can count on will actually be there. As LSU President F. King Alexander wrote in The Advocate last week, students generally make their college decisions for the following fall by May 1, so time is of the essence.” [The Advocate: Legislative delay has real world implications for most Louisianans. January 13, 2018]


“All those things led to the mess Gov. Edwards, a Democrat, inherited in 2016. He tried to get the Legislature, which is dominated by Republicans, to make lasting changes then to state finances, but they refused…. Legislators have been more concerned with scoring political points to hurt Gov. Edwards' re-election chances than in doing what is best for Louisianians. That must change.” [http://nola.com/&source=gmail&ust=1516204376124000&usg=AFQjCNH2IjQ43FvfuZN9S5R9ybvoVIsaMw">NOLA.com: Louisiana Legislature still has a long way to fix the budget, January 10, 2018]


“Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives are stonewalling again on fixing a budget and tax system that has been studied to death. How they can say they need more details on what Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has proposed to deal with an expected $1 billion deficit is baffling.  The outline Edwards proposed comes from a task force created by the Legislature itself, a plan the Republican leadership gave the cold shoulder to in 2017. If that isn’t good enough, there was a 2015 study by three state economists that contained similar recommendations.” [American Press: GOP Leaders Playing Hardball, January 14, 2018]

 

Read 280 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 10:34
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