According to Greg Hilburn of Gannet, Governor Jon Bel Edwards is meeting with Louisiana Senate leaders today to shore up support for his budget agenda. The special session begins next week, February 14. The state is in a massive budget hole of $750 million for this remaining fiscal year and $1.9B for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
On Friday, Edwards unveiled his legislative call.
In an introductory message to the call, The governor’s office said:
Today,GovernorJohn Bel Edwards issued the call for a twenty-five day special session of theLouisianaLegislature to address the largest budget shortfall inLouisiana’s history. Thegovernor’s call includes a broad menu of 36 items from which legislators may choose to fill the budget gap in a fiscal legislative session that will last from Feb. 14, 2016 through no later than Mar. 9, 2016.
“This is a season of hard choices forLouisiana,” Gov. Edwards said. “We have lived through seven years of mid-year deficits and budget cuts across state government. Now, we have three and a half weeks to decide how to fix a $750 million budget shortfall with effectively only three months in which to make cuts to critical state services and collect more revenue for the state. This is not the plan I want to submit to the legislature, but unfortunately, these are the options we have to choose from in the short-term.”
The state government is $750 million short of the money it needs to fund this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2016. Louisianacitizens face an additional $1.9 billion budget gap for the next year that must be filled just to continue offering the same state government services that are available today.
The list of items in thegovernor’s call includes the ability for legislators to pass spending cuts to the budget; cut and eliminate state contracts; use the “Rainy Day Fund” and non-coastal BP settlement dollars; and make changes to sales, business, and personal income taxes. Also included are options to raise cigarette and alcohol taxes, to bring back an expired rental car tax, and to require retailers to collect tax on online sales.
“Leadership demands that we all work together – my administration, legislators and every Louisianacitizen who cares about the future of our state – to stabilize this budget structurally, not only for this year, but for the long-term,” Gov. Edwards continued. “I have listened to legislators and have drafted a broad call allowing flexibility to consider both cuts and raising money for the state. Now is the time for legislators to join with me to resolve these problems and to begin filing bills that contain specific and workable solutions for the people ofLouisiana, who deserve our very best right now.”
Thegovernorhas previously said that he expects the Revenue Estimating Conference at its meeting next week to increase the projected deficit for this year, given the continued fall in oil prices and otherrevenue collectionsby the state over the past fewmonths.
The special session is necessary to address the budget crisis because the regular legislative session this year is a session in which theLouisianaconstitutiondirects that certainfiscal or tax matters not be considered. Thegovernorhas directed that the special session begin at 4:00pm on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016 and end no later than 6:00 pm on Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2016. Gov. Edwards will address a joint session of the legislature when the special session convenes. Legislators will gather again at noon on Monday, Mar. 14, 2016 for the regular legislative session. That session will end no later than 6:00 pm on Monday, June 6, 2016.
The Republican House Speaker, Taylor Barras replied with the following response:
In an introductory message,
“The Governor's call for the Extraordinary Session is reflective of what he's been presenting over the last several weeks. As expected, it includes a comprehensive list of revenue raising options, primarily with tax changes.
While some non-tax items are included, many were anticipating more opportunity to address structural and spending reforms. The House committees are positioned to begin work within the frame of the call and I am certain a number of bills will be filed in the coming week.
We look forward to working with the Administration through this process and know our House members are committed to moving forward with responsible solutions.”