The call for the special session, which everyone expected would go out at some point, came today. But the governor’s conditions laid out in advance of that call weren’t met – which means once again he’s not a particular man of his word.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he wouldn’t call for a special session unless he had an agreement with the House legislative leadership on a plan of taxes they’d agree to as a means of balancing the billion-dollar deficit Louisiana faces this year. Told by that leadership none of the taxes he demanded had a hope in hell of getting 70 votes to pass in the House, Edwards went back on his word and made the call for the special session anyway.
Edwards outlined 17 options in his official call Friday that can be considered, ranging from making services subject to sales taxes to income tax increases to removing some sales tax exemptions.”
He also included two Republican-favored reforms to be considered — work requirements for Medicaid and co-payments for Medicaid.
“There is a growing consensus among lawmakers that the fiscal cliff can and should be addressed in February, and I agree,” Edwards said in a statement.
But clearly, not everyone shared Edwards’ sense of a growing consensus.
“This is a waste of money,” state Rep. Reid Falconer, R-Mandeville, quickly tweeted following the news.
Edwards, a Democrat, has been negotiating with House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia. Edwards, Barras and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, met again at noon Friday before the governor issued the call.
The governor previously said he wouldn’t call lawmakers to Baton Rouge unless he had an agreement in principle with House leadership.
A concrete deal still appeared elusive Friday, although the governor said he believes there is some common ground.
“After multiple meetings with House and Senate leadership, I feel confident that we are coming to an area of compromise that will allow us to make the changes we need to continue the momentum that we are seeing in our state,” Edwards said in his statement without specifics.
Falconer is right. It’s a waste of money.
As we’ve reported before, the deal on the table is to retain half of the sales tax increase passed in 2016 which is set to expire in July, with half of the retained money being permanent (about $220 million per year in revenue) and the other half only being renewed for two years. That would leave about a half-billion dollars’ worth of deficits, which will be filled at least partially by revenues generated from changes to the federal tax code in the tax reform bill passed in December and also by an increase in the price of oil fueling increased state severance tax revenue and royalties. The rest would need to be made up through budget cuts, but those would be relatively minor.
And further, the Legislature could go into a special session at the end of this year’s regular season, which is set to wrap up in early June, for a day to pass a bill or two to retain those sales taxes.
Everything else is either a tax increase which will either not get the 70 votes in the House (and perhaps not 26 votes in the Senate, either), or a budget cut which doesn’t need to be addressed in a special session because the regular session is a perfectly appropriate time for action on it.
Edwards’ mismanagement of the budget process, together with a string of bizarre and indefensible statements at odds with the truth respective of the state’s fiscal condition and his contribution thereto, makes this special session call as predictable as it is unserious. He’s trumped up a crisis and now demands the legislature bail him out of it, and we will see a very negative reaction from the legislators as a result.
Get ready. The circus starts in about a week and a half.