House Reps: Thanks For The Three-Ring Circus, Governor, But That’ll Backfire

Last night, amid the chaos following the failure of the Louisiana Legislature to pass a budget before the end of the regular session, Gov. John Bel Edwards decried what he called an “an epic failure of leadership” in the House.

“They’re not hurting my feelings, but they’re hurting the people of Louisiana,” Edwards told reporters. “They just need to grow up.”

That was Edwards’ statement, after a day when the Senate, which he controls, sent a budget “conference report” to the House for final passage which had not been even presented to House Speaker Taylor Barras and House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry for their approval. That “conference report” suggested having the state fail to pay one month’s worth of obligations – some $157 million – to Medicaid providers as a means of spending those dollars on something else.

The people who refused to pass that document into law, in the governor’s estimation, are “hurting the people of Louisiana” and “need to grow up.”

And Senate Finance Chairman Eric Lafleur, one of the authors of the tawdry sham budget presented to the House at the last minute, called members of the other body “swamp people.” The significance of that statement we’re not sure how to describe.

Needless to say, this spectacle is not going over well with members of the House. One in particular we found to have an interesting reaction was Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, who issued this press release last night…

State Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) said the Legislature’s refusal to pass a budget by yesterday’s deadline and the Special Session trigger are a result of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ undue influence in the Senate and an obvious ploy that will not work for his political benefit.

“At 6 p.m. yesterday, we were forced by law to adjourn, but had not passed a state budget,” Pearson said.  “Interestingly, the governor preemptively called a Special Session to begin 30 minutes after the required adjournment, but the House voted to adjourn completely until Monday to allow budget negotiations to begin anew.

“It comes to this:  The Senate passed the budget the governor wanted, spending every single penny the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) projects will come in,” Pearson said.  “In the House, we had passed a budget that was $200 million less than the REC estimate.  Historically and repeatedly, the REC is always off – usually by about $200 million – which requires midyear budget cuts.  Why we continue to allocate or spend every dollar of projected revenue when we know it will be high – barring a sudden spike in oil prices, which also hits your family budget – is completely lost on me.

“The House budget was for 97.5 percent of REC projections, and we already compromised to 98.9 percent. More is not necessary, nor is it responsible.   The Senate iteration remained at 100 percent of REC projections, despite institutional knowledge that it’s not reliable, but in accordance with the governor’s liberal spending plan. The state budget is $29 billion dollars; that’s not OK for a state our size.

“I honestly think the governor intended this outcome, or thought his preemptive call for a Special Session would intimidate us into passing the liberal budget he asked for, the one that spends more of your money than we can reasonably expect to collect.  I think the governor is piqued because we refused to raise taxes.  I think the Administration is annoyed that we voted down his gasoline tax.  I think this is politics at its worst, and it’s definitely budgeting at its worst.

“I have held the line on taxes, and I’m holding the line on spending.  Blame me and my colleagues in the House for the additional cost of a Special Session if you must, but I’m not sorry.  The governor’s budget cannot stand and the Senate’s refusal to negotiate are the real reasons for this foolishness.  Come Monday, I will resume work with my colleagues to build a responsible budget that is palatable for you, the taxpayers – not for the liberals on the fourth floor of the Capitol, nor those in the Senate who toe the governor’s line.”

Another was Rep. Reid Falconer, R-Mandeville, who put this statement out on Facebook…

One month ago, the House passed a responsible standstill budget that would spend only 97.5% of the revenue our state expects to receive next year. The reason we did this is because the expected revenue amount has been wrong more than 15 times for the past nine years and has already been wrong once this year. If we pass 100%, we will have to come back for a special session and implement mid-year cuts, meaning we will have to make a mid-year cut that departments will have only a handful of months to absorb.

The Senate’s version of the budget would have forced us down this path. It also would have made irresponsible spending decisions, such as implementing millions in pay raises for state employees while the private sector is attempting to survive a very sluggish economy.

House Republicans have presented Senate leaders with two alternative budgets outside of the original budget the House passed. However, the Senate has been unwilling to negotiate with us and has not moved one inch towards a resolution between our chambers. Their unwillingness to negotiate and their non acceptance of responsible budgeting practices is what has driven us to another special session.

House Republicans believe we should pass a responsible budget that sets aside funds to address the inevitable mid-year cut we will face. All three of the budgets we have presented would have also assisted with alleviating the fiscal cliff. We believe we could have avoided another costly special session by passing one of the alternative budgets we have presented to the Senate. We will not budge; we will not spend 100%. Our position will not change regarding the budget tomorrow, next week, or the last day of the special session. We will remain where we are today, standing for what the people of our state deserve – a responsible budget and a healthy debate between the chamber regarding budget specifics.

The Senate has provided neither thus far. So, we respectfully request our colleagues to join us at the table and pass a legitimate budget for our state during the coming special session.

State Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Houma…

When the Revenue Estimating Conference has been wrong 15 times in the last 9 years…when you’ve had mid-year shortfalls year after year…when you already know there’s a billion dollar fiscal cliff coming up in just 12 months…it is irresponsible and unrealistic to craft a budget using 100% of the forecast. That’s not party politics. IT’S COMMON SENSE!!!

Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, whose resignation from the House to run for State Treasurer has now been pushed back because of the special session…

The regular session ended yesterday as the governor and the senate stalled the House republicans’ fiscally responsible plan that would lower the amount of a projected $1 billion budget shortfall. Like I’ve told you since day one, my number one goal this session has been to pass a budget that doesn’t raise your taxes and doesn’t spend 100 percent of our estimated revenue to prevent mid year budget cuts. I’m not going to be pressured by the media, the Senate, democrats, or the governor to pass another irresponsible budget that raises your taxes or spends every single penny that we ‘think’ we’re going to have. It’s time to stand up to the status quo and a crooked, bloated institution that can’t seem to grasp the concept of living within its means. So, we’re headed to special session. We will hold the line!

No official statement has come out of the House Republican Delegation, which didn’t call a press conference after the proceedings ended yesterday – that part was regrettable, because the reactions of Republicans on the House side consequently didn’t factor prominently in the reporting of what happened. The individual members are using social media to tell their side of the story, though.

The special session begins in earnest on Monday.

UPDATE: Another communique from Falconer, commenting on the Times-Picayune’s writeup of the budget-deal fizzle…

NOLA.com, the Pravda for the Administration, had they intended facts rather than the party line in their reporting, should have stated, “The Senate and governor would not offer, nor in good faith negotiate, a compromise on the amount of money to be spent, with the Senate and Edwards demanding that the budget allocate all of the anticipated revenue but the House wanting to hold back some $154 million as a cushion against midyear spending cuts in case revenue projects prove too optimistic.” The fact is that the House started with approximately $230 million in expenses below the REC projection of 2018 revenue, then went to approximately $150 million, and ended at $100 million, all through the process with the Senate, as epigone of the Governor, demanding that we spend all of the REC projection. This is not negotiation.

UPDATE: Another reaction, this one from Jay Morris, R-Monroe…

The failure of the Legislature to pass a budget reflects the divide between the House and Senate/Governor. The Senate/Governor wants to spend more money and the House wants to spend less money to avoid mid year cuts. One can agree with one side or the other on the wisest policy but these facts can’t be controverted: 1. The House didn’t resort to name calling as the News Star reports, 2. The House came up from its initial offer (holding back $200 million for midyear cuts) by 1/2 thereby coming exactly half way ($100 million to cover shortages) and the Senate never responded, and 3. The House didn’t go over the the Senate and yell and use expletives and encourage a lack of civil discourse like several Senators did during the closing minutes of the session.

Regardless, although the majority republican House would have preferred to stick to its standstill budget, it showed its willingness to compromise by meeting in the middle. The all or nothing approach of the Senate/Governor is not conducive to reaching compromise which is what I believe the people want.

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