And so it goes.
Below are the comments and opinions, as received:
"As a result of the Governor’s leadership failure, Louisianans will not receive the benefit of the widely supported Louisiana Checkbook (a reform that would require detailed summaries of all state expenditures, which passed the House 104 to 0), or much needed Medicaid reforms, and students and parents will not know what amount of aid, if any, will be available to them under the TOPS program this Fall," stated Gurvich.
WWL 870 AM: Gov. Edwards: Special Session A Failure
Gov. Edwards: "It really was a wasted opportunity to further stabilize our state and maintain the momentum we’ve got undeniably in terms of our 10 year low unemployment; the economic development wins that we have across the state of Louisiana; the investments; the stabilizing that we’ve already been able to do for higher education. It’s sad, it’s not terribly surprising. Last year, we had a fiscal session that we were supposed to use to address the fiscal cliff and not a single bill got out of the House, now we had a special session this year to address the cliff and not a single bill got out of the House. And you know, we’re going to start a regular session Monday and we’ll get back to the cliff because I am quite convinced they cannot pass a budget that’s less $994 million in revenue. It was a wasted opportunity, but we’re going to get back to work today and start working to try to fix it. In fact, as soon as I get off the phone I’m meeting with some legislators to try to get this thing started again.”
KPEL 96.5 FM: Edwards Details Failure in the Legislature During Special Session
Host: “Was there a deal in place before the session?”
Gov. Edwards: "Well, there was certainly a proposal made by the (House) Speaker and I wrote the call to accommodate every element in his proposal, every revenue measure and every so-called budget reform measure and made the call exactly to his liking and still got no revenue bills out of the House to fix the cliff. By the way, that’s exactly what happened in the fiscal session last year as well when we should have taken care of this is not a single bill to fix the cliff made it out of the House over to the Senate. And it’s unfortunate because we are now going to cause parents and students to wonder for example, whether Higher-Ed is going to be funded, whether their TOPS scholarships are going to be funded and if so in what amount, and we should have taken care of that. It shouldn’t still be up in the air and not just TOPS and Higher Ed but across state government with our partner hospitals, with Medicaid services, our ability to pay for inmates to be housed in local sheriffs’ jails and just everything that we do. One of the things that I think people don’t understand is $1 billion in state general fund, if that’s the shortfall and it is, can only be cut from about $3.4 billion that is discretionary. The only two big pots of money are Higher Ed and health care; precisely the two areas that people all across the state of Louisiana tell me every day that they don’t want to see cuts. But that’s the only option that we have, which is why I don’t believe that the legislature will be able to pass a budget that once the federal reform dollars there will be about $692 million less than the current year. I just don’t think they can do it, and I know they can’t do it and responsibly and adequately fund our critical priorities.”
Talk 107.3 FM: Jay Dardenne on the Legislature and What Went Wrong
Host: “Where do we go from here?”
Jay Dardenne: “The governor indicated yesterday, and he has already spoken to the president (of the Senate) and the speaker (of the House) that he is going to ask the legislature to adjourn early in the regular session. Instead of staying until June 4, they’ll adjourn in early May so that he (the governor) can immediately call another special session that will end at the time the regular session was scheduled to end, and that way there are no additional days that the legislature would be in session. The reason for that is why we had the special session to begin with. The legislature cannot deal with any revenue measures in an even numbered year like we’re in, so they have to be in a special session. That’s why the session was called…the governor said repeatedly over the last year ‘I’m not going to call these folks back into session again unless the House has a plan to fix the cliff.’ The House plan was presented by the speaker to the president and to the governor before the session. He (the governor) wrote the call with them based on what the speaker requested would be in the special session, and the Speaker had indicated he would support a half-a-penny of sales tax, and he could deliver 40 Republican votes to do that. And as soon as the session began he reneged on that agreement, and that’s what threw everything asunder and created the train wreck we saw over the past two weeks where everybody is trying to blame everybody else for what’s falling apart.”
KEEL 710 AM: Jay Dardenne Blames GOP for Gargantuan Failure of Special Session
Jay Dardenne: “There was a plan going in. The reason we had the special session is because the speaker and the president and the governor all agreed on what would be in the call and what would be done. The speaker had agreed to a plan that would have raised almost what the governor had requested to close the gap that was necessary, and that all blew up in the first day or two of the session. So, it wound up being a gargantuan failure and a waste of a million dollars of the taxpayers money to pay per diem to legislators and to pay the staff and what have you. Obviously, it didn’t turn out the way we hoped it would turn out. We’ve been talking about this cliff for literally more than a year and talking in the past six months about how it needed to be fixed and the consequences of not doing it now and unfortunately now that is the reality that we’re facing…”
These sessions were all called by Governor Edwards, even though legislators spend months in regular sessions in Baton Rouge. In this case, absolutely nothing was passed and the session ended in total failure, mostly due to the incompetence and lack of leadership of Governor Edwards.
The Governor called this session to deal with the supposed $1 billion budget deficit. In reality, the deficit is only $692 million due to the extra revenue that will be generated by the new federal tax legislation passed in December. He should have never called the session if he did not have the support to pass a legislative package to balance the budget.
LOUISIANA BUDGET PROJECT
While the political debate centers on how to stabilize the state budget, talk of long-term structural reforms are on the back burner. Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press reports:
The Advocate's editorial board, justifiably grumpy at having skipped part of the Oscars telecast to watch the Legislature's meltdown, says both sides are to blame.
Lawmakers took another cue from Hollywood, leaving their constituents with a fiscal cliffhanger. It might all be as entertaining as the latest blockbuster if the consequences weren't so sad, the stakes so high. With no clear means to fund basic state services and popular programs like the TOPS scholarship for college students, the Legislature will soon enter a regular session obligated to craft a budget based on Draconian cuts. This is, to use another Tinseltown analogy, yet the latest sequel to a story we've seen too many times, as partisan divisions at the State Capitol prevent meaningful compromise. But the failure of the special session was about more than differences between Republicans and Democrats. It was also about a fundamental lack of cohesion within the parties themselves.
The real losers, of course, are the millions of Louisiana residents who depend on a strong and stable state budget. LBP's Jan Moller:
The Legislature's failure means thousands of college students won't know until June if Louisiana will honor its promise of a scholarship. It means doctors, hospitals, clinics, and other Medicaid providers will have to wait for months to find out if they'll have the resources to care for Louisiana's poorest and most vulnerable residents. It should be clear to everyone by now that the Legislature cannot simply cut its way to a balanced budget. The cuts-only mindset is what created our fiscal crisis in the first place, and the only way to address it is for legislators to agree on a revenue plan that supports the investments in education, health and public safety that are needed for all Louisianans to reach their full potential.