Governor Edwards marks 100 days in office; still wrestling with state budget

Governor Edwards marks 100 days in office; still wrestling with state budget

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Governor John Bel Edwards marked 100 days in office Tuesday, and much of his time has been focused on keeping the state's finances solvent.

Even as the governor talked about being in office for a little more than three months, he is planning to call state lawmakers into another special session soon, it would be the second of his short time in office.

"I want you to know that I'm encouraged, I am not discouraged at all about this administration and what's happening in the state of Louisiana and I am more committed than ever to working on the behalf of the people to fix our problems," said Edwards.

During the first special session which ended March 9, state lawmakers failed to approve all of the revenue measures put forth by the governor to wipe out entirely a billion dollar deficit for the current fiscal year and a $2-billion funding shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The governor has proposed $792 million in cuts to wipe out the remaining shortfall for the incoming budget year and the popular TOPS Scholarship Program could be scaled back by the legislature to bring costs more in line with available state funds.
"I think this needs to be more of a needs based scholarship, or at least spread it out across the board, so everybody gets a little bit," said Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington. "Maybe year by year you budget a certain amount of money and you divide that amongst how many kids you have, but we don't have a unlimited or open checkbook."

Gov. Edwards would not say exactly which new tax hikes he is eyeing for the next special session. He said he did not want to get ahead of a special task that includes a university economist which has been studying ways to overhaul the state's tax code.

"I'll be quite frankly surprised if there are options to consider look a whole lot different than those that were before the legislature the first special session," said the governor.

"I think the temperament at least from where I live, people don't want to pay any more taxes," said Rep. Schroder.

He and some other republicans favor waiting until the fall to have another special session.

"The taxes that we did raise, what kind of revenue it's going to bring in, which we don't know right now, I think June, I'm totally opposed to a June special session," said Schroder.

The governor says he remains committed to getting a higher minimum wage approved by the legislature during the ongoing regular legislative session which began days after the special ended. But some republicans are cool to the idea.

"I am committed to raising the minimum wage, it's been the same since 2009, $7.25 is not a meaningful living wage in 2016," said Gov. Edwards.

Schroder said he is more opposed to government intruding in to business practices.

"My wife and I are both in business, everybody who even is close to casual labor makes well more than minimum wage, so I don't need the government to tell me what's fair or not fair, when I'm paying somebody, I think I can do that on my own," said Schroder.

While the governor said he thinks the excise tax on gas needs to be increased, he said he will not propose that at this time because money from the tax cannot be used for education, or health care, areas in jeopardy of more cuts.

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