With the Louisiana legislature revving up to start later this afternoon for its 3rd special session to deal with next year's budget which starts July 1 this year, here's the big question--will three be the charm? Actually, if you want to get technical, you can add the regular session to the mix, which would make four. However, that regular session prohibited raising any revenues since it was not a fiscal session, so, we won't count it to the tally.
The second special session of 2018 has come and gone, although it didn’t go quietly. The theatrics in the last hour of debate rivaled some of Hollywood’s greatest performances. But still, the dramatics were not worth the waste of time and, more importantly, not worth Louisiana taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
Governor John Bel Edwards and his administration claims that the state needs to raise the sales tax to 4.5 cents this legislative session beginning Monday. If the legislature, particularly the House do not produce enough votes to hit that supermajority needed to raise taxes, Edwards and others are claiming that fiscal hell will break loose. They claim that University kids and parents will have to fork over 30 percent of the TOPS scholarship plus the colleges would be in the hole close to over 100 million dollars. They claim that homes for the aged will close, food stamps disappear, 10,000 non-violent criminals will hit the streets.
Is it "throw granny out of her bed time, once again, as the Louisiana legislature continues the budget debate? Or, do those precious aged folks really have much to worry about, again, this time?
Earlier this spring, an uproar occurred during the budget debate of the regular session, when Governor John Bel Edwards announced that letters would be sent out to notify some seniors in nursing homes that they might have to be evicted if the revenues do not come to fruition to accomodate their services. The Republicans screamed bloody murder, claiming the Governor was ruthlessly scaring seniors, unnecessarily.
It's the Louisiana seventeen cents penny opera.
When one really considers the current debate in the Louisiana legislature starting next week in another special session to complete the budget for next year which fiscal year starts July 1, the differences between the revenues that have been approved so far compared to those that the Governor and others want to pay for government services already appropriated, is miniscule.
As has been reported, the difference between the 33% and the 4.5% of a single penny comes down to a mere seventeen cents sales tax on a one hundred dollars of a purchase.
Who and what is to be blamed for the State of Louisiana's needing a third-special session just this year to attempt to fashion a operating document that funds government, provides necessary services yet provides room for businesses to grow? What is the state doing that other states are not doing that has resulted in ongoing budgetary crises, year after year after year? Are the legislature and Governor John Bel Edwards, being successful in their tackling the real issue, that is, the actual structure in which we raise revenues and appropriate spending, or, are we simply putting out raging fires, every spring?
How far are the government stakeholders away from agreement on the Louisiana budget? Is Governor Edwards being straight-forward about the governmental needs and the inability to fund them? Will TOPS funding remain at a 30 percent cut or will the House of Representatives force a reduction on those reductions? Is there really government waste fraud and abuse or is that just talking points?
The Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, has issued his third special session call of 2018 to fix the state budget. The two prior sessions, one ending earlier this week, failed. Here is the notification issued from his office:
Let's suppose you're the Governor of one of the worst performing states. You're a Democrat in a very conservative state in a very conservative region. You know the revenues on the table in a Republican dominated legislature cannot come close to meeting your obligations to match even last year's budget. You and most of your legislators are running for re-election. The Republican party is gunning for your head since you beat one of them to win the keys to the mansion. You called a special session in the spring, which failed to create a compromise on a budget for next year. After the ordinary legislative session completed, you called another one, which again blew up with very little to show for the roughly $1.4 million dollars spent to get to almost zero done for the second time in four months. And now, with the new fiscal year going into effect, you have no choice but to call another one but you know that the two political extremes simply don't see eye to eye and appear to want to defy the other extreme, simply to make a point.
This is the proximate situation Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is currently facing as time is running out for a budget fix and possibly even in his political career as governor should he not achieve a legislative win.
On Wednesday, Christopher Tidmore and I discussed Edwards's options. Tidmore is the political editor for the Louisiana Weekly and talk radio show host.
Here is the first part of the conversation. Below is the video and transcript part 2 of this particular segment, which starts at the 35 minute, 58 second mark on the video. Part 3, tomorrow:
The administration so far has not been willing to agree to a tax of less than five years for a legitimate reason. Five years is the minimum part that Wall Street considers funding when it comes to the bond rating. So they can't really put that on the table otherwise we might have had a deal already for two years, just get us through the election, possibly, possibly not. So what else is the governor willing to do because from a political standpoint. The question is what is the governor willing to do to say to the Republicans--I can give you this and get it will give you cover, because you are taking a politically risky stand. It's not about the comparatively small a bit of money.
It's about the ideological statement that Republican who was elected on an absolute platform of no new taxes has already allowed one sales tax to go on for two or three years, for two years--18 months really-- and had told his constituents it was completely temporary for crisis. Now he's basically extending half of that for five years. The governor needs to come up and say to him in old fashioned political horse trading, and not "hey you got a road in your district which is how the governor is thinking"--something on a rather large scale that comes through. What is that? I thought for a while what the governor was going to endorse was a constitutional convention--the idea that was pushed by Neal Abramson. Personal animosity between the governor and Abramson, even Abramson is a Democratic, he tends to vote with Republicans.
He's a committee chairman--has pretty much killed that for now, at least for the this session. And I don't know what else the governor can give up that actually would make a difference at this late date. And I think what's going on between the administration representatives particularly Jay Dardenne and Taylor Barras, is this--"look, we got to pass the half-penny. There's no way around this, we're not going to call the revenue estimating conference back, that's off the table" Maybe it's not but I'm guessing it is in the next seven days.
So, what can we do for you to get this passed that doesn't involve a large budgetary cut--beyond one or two percent? And I think there's a lot of flummoxed in the administration about what they can do--because remember John Bel Edwards is himself going into a very tough reelection. He cannot afford--he's a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat. The thing he's gonna be talking about, believe it or not in this election, is how he passed a 15 week abortion limit, because it's gonna get him credibility with conservatives and it doesn't hurt him with African-Americans who tend to be socially conservative.
But if he starts giving away economic stuff, it could affect African-American turnout and poor Democratic turnout and affect his reelection which will already be tight. It will not be the 60-40 David Vitter type of thing. And he's in a trick bag. Right now, he gets hurt but the Republicans get blamed for the budget being-- hurting TOPS effectively. If he doesn't get blamed .
Once again, a special session has ended in disagreement and disappointment. Legislators could not agree on the exact funding mechanism to bridge the $650 million budget deficit. The crisis is a result of the 1% sales tax increase that was enacted in 2016 but will expire at the end of the month.