As regular session ends, lawmakers prepare for more work

Lawmakers head back to work after regular session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - As time wound down Monday on the regular session, lawmakers weren't in the frenzied pace normally seen on the final day.

"I don't think it could be any crazier than it was the last special session," said Sen. Wesley Bishop.

On Sunday, lawmakers passed a new budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 knowing they'll start work soon to make it better.

"None of us are happy the shape the budget ended up," said Senate President John Alario. "The fact is, we started off with $600 million in the hole, we're still $600 million dollars in the hole."

"I think members would have liked to, you know, obviously put a little bit more money towards TOPS," said Rep. Cameron Henry.

The new budget only funds 48 percent of the $300 million TOPS scholarship program, and state hospitals run through public-private partnerships take a big hit, too.  Gov. John Bel Edwards wants lawmakers to raise at least $450 million in new revenue during the latest special session to ease the pain.

"We need to do whatever we can to raise $450 million to $600 million so that we can have these very basic government services restored and not to mention make sure that our hospitals have the funding that they need," said Rep. Helena Moreno.

"If we're able to raise closer to $450 million, then TOPS would be funded at 100 percent, which I think is all of our goal," Alario said. "We could take care of those public-private partnerships in hospitals and give higher education some additional funds."

"That money is necessary to fund all the holes in the budget, so I'm willing to take a look at anything necessary to try to solve the problem," Bishop said.

The governor proposes reducing tax breaks for businesses and individuals. Edwards wants to change individual income tax brackets and limit itemized deductions that taxpayers can claim on state returns.

But many Republicans said that after raising $1.2 billion in taxes in the first special session, they're against more tax increases.

"I think that's a very difficult thing for a lot of members to vote for," Henry said. "…We're going to raise taxes on business and individuals to pay for TOPS so we can have well-educated students who then leave because the tax base is too high here. And the companies are leaving, and no one wants to live here because of the tax issue, so you really need to have a good strong balance there."

"I don't like taxes any different than anybody else, but they - you, you have to have a plan," said Sen. Danny Martiny. "I don't want to raise taxes, I don't want to scale back exemptions - what's your plan?  And to just say I'm against raising taxes, that's fine.  We do have this constitutional obligation to balance the budget, so those are the two ways you do it."

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