Now to pick up the pieces of the Louisiana budget. What are the budget watchers saying now that the legislature budget is all but put to bed? Will we see future cuts or even taxes down the road? Here are comments from the progressive-leaning Louisiana Budget Project, one day after the Louisiana legislature resolved their differences:
When the Louisiana House adjourned on Thursday, its members were hopelessly deadlocked over one-tenth of a penny of sales-tax renewal. Neither the governor's preferred 0.5 percent renewal, or the 0.4 percent favored by many Republicans, could muster the required 70 votes to move a bill out of the lower chamber. But on Friday a compromise plan emerged, led by two women legislators from opposing parties - Republican Paula Davis of Baton Rouge and Democrat Katrina Jackson of Monroe. Once the 0.45 - cent renewal cleared the House, all that remained was ironing out some details with the Senate on an accompanying spending bill. The AP's Melinda Deslatte was there:
"Nobody got everything that they were looking for, but everybody got something," the governor said. "It is going to fund our most critical priorities in a responsible way." The more than $29 billion operating budget will shield most agencies from cuts, ending fears that safety-net hospitals would shutter, nursing homes would kick out patients, food stamps would be eliminated and college students would be left scrambling to offset reductions in the TOPS tuition program.
The compromise plan caps a grueling four-month lawmaking period that included three special sessions that were needed because $1.4 billion in tax revenue goes off the books on July 1. Filling that gap required a mix of revenue sources. Deslatte breaks down the math:
The shortfall tied to expiring taxes passed by lawmakers in 2015 and 2016 initially was pegged at nearly $1 billion earlier this year. The gap was closed with better-than-expected income projections, taxes and oil spill recovery money. The centerpiece of the budget-balancing package was a sales tax that won final passage Sunday.
The budget deal extends the temporary sales tax through mid-2025, which should provide some much-needed stability for college students, faculty members, assistant district attorneys and those who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to put food on the table each month. Still, the extension of a temporary sales tax is no substitute for the long-term structural tax reform that Louisiana badly needs. Our state remains far too reliant on sales tax revenues, and the need for new investments in everything from early childhood education to infrastructure improvements is greater than ever.