Wednesday, 16 May 2018 18:05

Waiting for Governor Edwards to tell Louisiana House to "put up or shut up" with budget

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jbe alario speaker henry 4stepAnother spring, another special session.

Is it the sixth since Governor John Bel Edwards took over from Bobby Jindal?  Like Sally Bowes sang in Cabaret, "maybe this time"?

As the Louisiana regular session comes to an abrupt close this week, the special session focused upon a gaping $650 million hole, begins Tuesday. After two successive shoo shoos fiscal sessions meant to make up the difference in what the state spent this year and what it has money to spend next year, it is hard to be very confident that a solution will come at hand.

At least, that seems to be the position of reporter Sue Lincoln, who has seen many legislative sessions during the years she has covered the capitol.

Jim Brown and I talked to her about the current and future session. Ms. Lincoln, is covering the session for the progressive website, Bayou Brief, published by Lamar White Jr.

Below is the transcript of this segment. The segment ends at the 7 minute, 56 second mark. Watch the balance of the very insightful perspective offered by Sue Lincoln: 

BROWN: Well thanks Stephen,  I'm glad to be here with su this morning and put some of what's happening is perspective. The legislators about to got to adjourn with a budget completely out of balance with a number of key issues that I think they're very important still on the table and so it's pretty much in disarray and I we've had done 5 special sessions right now. I've never known of a governor that cram so much effort into trying to solve so many problems not getting very far, so far--so anyway that's the scenario of where we are right now a special session coming up on the 18th just two days away after they shut down here as we speak and Sue I'm very anxious to hear your perspective of where this,  where the legislature is right now. People are very confused the average citizen out there doesn't have the foggiest idea what's happening at the state capitol and you being a close observer we'd like to hear just what your views are in terms of where we are right now and what you think will happen in the next couple of weeks


LINCOLN:  Realistically there are days when I'm not quite sure where everything is. It has been quite a dysfunctional group of lawmakers they're in here in Baton Rouge dealing with issues that seem simple. I mean the bottom line is they voted for two and a half years ago , they voted for temporary tax, knowing they were going to be falling off, knowing they had a fiscal session last year when they could fix it. There were promises made that they were going to revise our tax code and do things more fairly.  That didn't come to fruition because of partisan gamesmanship more than anything else.  What we heard from the beginning of this administration was that we now had an independent house as witnessed by the choosing of Taylor Barras as the speaker a Republican even though the governor had wanted Walt Legier to be the speaker. But independent is not exactly what I would call them. I would have to call them partisan. And that partisanship has dominated everything that's gone on for the last two and a half years, making things that would be sensible like extending the temporary taxes which they could have done in the special session in February, not happen at all.  Instead that special session ended with no revenue raisers coming from the house to the Senate and the Senate sitting there with their thumbs up there you know what for the whole two and a half week.  The Senate tired of it that is what we saw last week with the Senate Finance Committee and yesterday with the full Senate in the version of the budget they sent out in the version of the Senate concurrent resolution 101 authored by Jack Donahue a Republican, a very conservative Republican, saying that they had a list of potential revenue raisers that they effectively would like to see in this next special session.  Now they don't convene until next Tuesday at 4:00, Jim, so they're going to have a few days to go home relax reset the button as much as they can reset, and we'll see what happens.  But I don't think anyone has a lot of confidence that even at this point they're going to be able to come together enough to raise the revenue needed to fill the 650 million dollar hole in the budget, just to keep us even with what we are at right now.


BROWN: Well Sue could I follow that up with this you I think articularly sumed upthe internal workings of the legislature yourself.  The person you didn't mention was Governor John Bel Edwards. I wish you'd comment on that. I know I was a state senator and when I was there and there were budget crises and the late part of the time I was senator, the governor was a not just a major significant player but the guiding forces to what happened and if you got out of line, the governor has huge control over the budget he can tell a legislator you're not getting a thing in your district, we're gonna completely cut you out, we're gonna isolate you, and you can play real a hardball if you're the governor and make legislators kind of thing second secondly about it .  What do you see down there-- is the governor playing hardball?  Is he just throwing things out you don't see him in the forefront of the debate. He's saying. oh we got to have more money, but as far as behind the scenes really twisting arms, really trying to build a consensus what what's your view of what the governor is doing or is not doing?


 LINCOLN: Well there's there's two factors here-- based on the time that you were in the legislature, Jim, there was more available money the capital outlay process was a bit different than it is now and there were projects for the districts that the governor's could go ahead and cut out or keep in, bump up the amounts or reduce the amounts--that no longer really exists in the budget as it is today because over the eight years of the previous administration, a lot of the money for things like that were put to other things.  It's that discussion between one-time money and recurring revenue, the previous governor took an awful lot of sources of one-time money and plugged holes in recurring revenue with them.  The other factor with this governor is he's the first governor in the history of Louisiana to move straight from the house to the governor's mansion. John bel Edwards has and I've always phrased it as a reverence for the separation of powers, a reverence for the legislature and because of that the things that one would expect of somebody who went to West Point who was 82nd airborne to put on his drill sergeant boots and jump in the middle of everything, he doesn't do.  Because he is an absolutist when it comes to the separation of powers.  Personally I think there's more he could do to move things along, to try and motivate certain members of the house to move more toward the center, but he has held this hands-off approach for so long that a lot of House members especially those that are in leadership positions kind of see him as not, not necessarily strong, but a pushover, that they can put that they can snooker him and that's the way it has looked. I don't think he's being snookered at all I just think he hasn't gotten to that point yet where he's ready to tell them, put up or shut up. All of us are waiting for it and I'm hoping that either he will or the members of the House who are fed up with it


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