Friday, 02 March 2018 11:19

Sen. Appel wishes unwise Louisiana Special Session would collapse

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rip sessionToday is being called D-Day or even the Drop Dead Day when referring to the Louisiana legislative special session being held in Baton Rouge.  Conventional wisdom is, if things don’t really jumpstart now, you can kiss the revenue raising session goodbye.

Roughly 11 days ago, Governor John Bel Edwards first gaveled in the fiscal session, to fix what was considered by many, a roughly 600 to 1 billion dollar hole in the budget for the year 2018, starting July 1. However, the session has literally gone nowhere.

Some legislators, particularly Republicans actually “wish” it will end without an agreement.  The reason? Because they believe the legislative session was not needed. They think it was unwise. One of those Republicans is Senator Conrad Appel of Metairie.

I discussed this issue with Senator Appel, yesterday.  Below is the conversation, transcript and video. The segment begins at the 6:06 mark and concludes at the 12:25 point on the video.

SEN. APPEL: I really would like to talk about that too but in case you have any questions I'll stop now go ahead I actually was going to ask that question okay it has been my belief and that of most of my peers that this was a misguided decision to have a special session prior to the revenue estimating conference and also to the regular session .  We have gone into this special session with a demand to raise roughly a billion dollars.  We already knew until yesterday, the governor, when he finally acknowledged it had been saying the billion dollars, but until yesterday, we we found out that the governor now is acknowledging that there's 300 million dollars in changes primarily income tax changes resulting from federal tax law.  that 300 million dollars is applied to the nine hundred so shortfall and so we're really dealing with a seven hundred million dollar shortfall not a billion dollar shortfall.  We also need that revenue estimating conference to look at the price of oil, we need to look at additional other income the state has garnered as a result of president Trump's changes in the economy.  The economy's ticked up, everybody knows that, which means our tax tax receipts should have gone up, income taxes, all the other taxes related to corporations and so forth.  


So we we need the revenue estimating conference to tell us how much money we have and then finally we really should have the legislature do the appropriations process to  determine how much the legislature wants to spend.  Then and only then should we have had a special session it could have been very brief to pick up what the shortfall was after those two issues had taken place, the revenue estimating conference, and the appropriations process, and we could have had a very clean system moving forward everything funded properly. 

Instead we were handed a demand for a billion dollars when we had no idea if a billion dollars is the right number close, to the right number, we already know it's not.  So there was a lot of distrust--the first day of the special session--why are we here?  What are we looking for?  What are we trying to accomplish?  You know it's this was a this was not a happy place for the last two weeks. 

SABLUDOWSKY: So, when would this other session take place in June? 

SEN. APPEL:Well you can do it two ways, you can do it concurrent with the regular session, we can go, we can recess gavel into a special session for say ten days and then come back into regular session and pass the HB1 which is the appropriations bill.  Or we could wait to the end of, we could, we could do the budgeting process but not formally fund HB1, go into special session immediately after the close of the regular session, and then you know a week or so, pass the necessary tax measures to fully fund the government.  it's only a slight difference in time, either way.   

And then one other point I wanted to make you heard a lot from people saying oh we've got to have a special session now because we've got to be able to plan for our future--right, I don't buy that argument, because nobody in any form of government, whether it be a policy that needs to be funded, a program or an agency--knows how much money they're gonna get until HB1 which is the appropriations bill is actually signed by the governor some time usually in June.    

in any case, so I mean how many times have we gone into the appropriations process in agencies cu. t  So I don't buy this argument that we had to have a special session to raise a billion dollars just because they needed to plan.  They know good and well that there is nothing is firm or fixed until HB 1 is time by that governor and that's usually in June sometime.

SABLUDOWSKY: And i would assume the universities would certainly disagree. I'm assuming that they would say, "no we definitely need--every year, yeah, the governor goes ahead and he will appropriate a vet,o but you know for our purpose we really need a couple months and the parents too.

 SEN. APPEL:Well here's the problem, and that is, that is exactly the argument but here's the problem with it.  Let's just take this scenario that we passed a billion dollars, that doesn't mean anybody's getting that money.  For all we know the governor may lobby the legislature through the appropriations process to push most of that money toward healthcare for instance.  I'm not putting words in his mouth but it's theoretically possible.  You don't know what TOPS is going to be funded at.  You don't know with the universities. I mean you can make a, you can make an assumption and I think that's a fair point, that you can make an assumption what's it can be funded a,t but how many times in the last 10 years that I've been here have we seen where we go into negotiations on HB 1 and everything changes the last day of session? So I don't buy that argument.  I think this was all a an effort to try to get the legislature to raise a substantial amount of money before the REC meets, in the hopes that perhaps the REC would recognize additional revenue that would allow us to grow the government even further--that's that's kind of my suspicion, but nevertheless we have to wait and see if if this special session collapses this afternoon I may get my wish.  Because we'll go into regular session we'll do the regular process and we will end up with a special session at that end or concurrent, just just the way I suggested it should been done in the first place, so we'll see.

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