The Louisiana Budget Negotiations Have Begun Anew With The House’s Passage Of HB1

We’re largely back where we started with respect to Louisiana budget negotiations, except this time the House’s starting position is to hold back $100 million in projected revenues rather than the $206 million it started with during the regular session.

House Republican leaders are making their initial offer for a $28 billion-plus Louisiana operating budget, calling it a good-faith effort to broker a compromise on the fifth day of the 12-day special legislative session. The House Appropriations Committee advanced the measure Tuesday (June 13), on an almost party-line 15-6 vote with Democrats opposed.

The plan would use $100 million less than the total revenue that is forecast for the fiscal year beginning July 1. That’s down from $206 million that House GOP lawmakers originally sought to set aside. House Democrats, the Senate and Gov. John Bel Edwards want to spend all the revenue.

Republican House lawmakers say their latest proposal meets the Senate and governor halfway. The Edwards administration said the offer would force unnecessary budget cuts.

Edwards’ position is, as Henry noted in a video he released last night, largely nonsense. Unless the governor believes that somehow this time the Revenue Estimating Conference will somehow get their fiscal forecast right after being wrong 16 times in the past nine years, it’s difficult to see how a budget holding back on spending money the state won’t likely have would be to “force unnecessary budget cuts.”

But like Henry said last night, that isn’t Edwards’ game. He wants a mid-year budget deficit. He wants a crisis. In a crisis he can demand tax increases, and leverage the potential of having to feed developmentally-disabled kids to alligators in the Atchafalaya Basin, or perhaps cancelling college baseball in Louisiana next year, or some other feeble threat designed as an attempt at a Washington Monument Strategy, to get them.

Except that game has gotten old. Everybody seems to see it for what it is. Even partisan Democrats who only pretend not to get it, understand.

But all of these things were true last week, when it was largely understood that the parameters of a budget deal involved (1) spending only what the REC said was possible from a revenue standpoint, and (2) holding back on some of that spending as a hedge against a potential mid-year deficit in the event the REC is wrong, again, and it was still impossible to get a budget deal. At the last minute Edwards had the Senate pass a budget including $157 million in deficit spending, paid for by turning Louisiana into a deadbeat slow payer to its Medicaid providers through a holdback of one month’s worth of reimbursements; this was a non-starter in the House and a prime example of bad-faith, old-school Louisiana budget negotiations. Edwards thought he could force a capitulation with that tactic, and he was wrong, which is why he’s unleashed a public-relations blitz aimed at demonizing the House members.

But the House has started the Louisiana budget negotiations again. We’ll see what tricks Edwards and Senate President John Alario have up their sleeves this time.

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