Governor Edwards tries to make his case for another special session

Governor Edwards tries to make his case for another special session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - It is a new year, but the state finds itself battling the same problem that began and ended 2016: Money. The state's bank account is woefully low compared to government's obligations.

"We're using a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, to responsibly solve this budget crisis," said Gov. John Bel Edwards as he addressed the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget in Baton Rouge.

Edwards told state lawmakers he will issue an official call next week for a special session that would begin on Feb. 13 and end no later than Feb. 23.

"There will be no proposal from my administration to raise a single tax or a single fee," Edwards said.

Instead, critical areas of the budget will be cut as part of a package of proposals that the governor will make public next week.

"My plan will also make painful cuts to the LA. Department of Health while minimizing, to the maximum extent possible, any impact on waivers and our partner hospitals. It would make budget reductions, as well, to the judicial and legislative branches of government," Edwards said.

But there are areas he hopes to shield.

'We're working diligently to minimize cuts to higher education and our partner hospitals, but I can tell you now we will not propose - and in fact we oppose - cutting K-12 education, the per-pupil allocation in the MFP, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Children and Family Services," he said.

Edwards has been criticized for wanting to take $119 million from the state's rainy day fund.

"The rainy day fund exists for this very reason," he said.

But some Republicans are not convinced that's the best course of action and complain that government has gotten too big.

"The facts bear out that the state of Louisiana's government has grown by four percent per year, outpacing the private sector two-to-one," said Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria.

"Do you think the agency heads could be doing the same thing to you that at times you and your predecessors have done to us by giving us the worst case scenario of what the cuts would be?" asked Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie.

"No," the governor replied.

And Edwards warned that without dipping into the state's rainy day fund, budget cuts would be catastrophic, even affecting K-12 public education.

"As we've seen proposals put forth without the Rainy Day fund you're going to cut public-private partnerships, our hospitals, K-12 education and higher education. I just don't think there's any way around it under that scenario," Edwards said.

"We use it when we're raining, but after six or seven years of cuts, I think we're having a Category 5 storm in Louisiana," said Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe.

Edwards said a special session would allow lawmakers to consider more areas of the budget to slash than he can do alone and with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

"We have to recognize that behind every number are real people, our fellow Louisianians," Edwards said.

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