BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - A top state House Republican remains opposed to the latest special session and a proposed change in income tax rates to raise additional state revenue.
Lawmakers again find themselves under pressure, in terms of time. By law, the regular session of the legislature must end June 6 with a balanced budget for the new fiscal year approved. The governor said there is a $600 million shortfall in funds for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
"As it relates to TOPS, I don't think it's going to be fully funded when we leave. If every agency isn't at its targeted amount, I don't think government's going to shut down. Actually, government is growing by $900 million more this year than last, so I think everything will be in a good position," said Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, who chairs the powerful House Appropriation Committee.
But Gov. John Bel Edwards see things differently and has called a special session to begin Monday right after the regular session ends to try to raise additional revenues.
Edwards said to fully fund higher education, the TOPS scholarships, and the state's public hospitals, millions more are needed for the new fiscal year. And as if that is not enough, his administration was before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday talking about a funding shortage for some agencies for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
"The Minimum Foundation Formula is $7 million short, the local housing of state inmates is $7 million short, we're $300,000 short in debt service," said Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne,
Still, many House Republicans are not ready for another special session.
"One of the issues I was hoping the governor would learn from this is that we rushed the last one, and now we have to have a special session to fix it. What we don't want to do is have to rush again and make more mistakes and have to come into a third special session," said Henry.
The first special session ended March 9 and lawmakers were so rushed that some legislation that won final approval contained errors.
In the new special session, the governor wants lawmakers to consider changing state income tax rates and brackets for individual taxpayers.
"Fooling with income tax brackets is a very difficult thing to pass right now. We just finished a session where we raised $1.2 billion, we're only six percent off of the amount of money the governor wants to spend this year. We're in a good position," said Henry.
Rep. Henry does not believe there is an appetite for more taxes to keep TOPS at its current level.
"For TOPS, for families, TOPS is temporary, it's a four-year program assuming you're a freshman. Are we going to permanently raise your taxes to temporarily pay for four years of college?"