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5th special session begins; political analyst says more is at stake for Gov. Edwards than lawmakers

At the state capitol, another special session began late Monday afternoon.

It is the fifth called by democratic Governor John Bel Edwards since taking office in 2016 to deal with ongoing budget crises.
"That I truly hope turns out to be special for the people of Louisiana where finally we will put these budget problems to rest once and for all,” said Gov. Edwards during a morning stop in New Orleans before heading back to the State Capitol.

Edwards held two special session in 2016, the year he was inaugurated governor to tackle a budget shortfall that he inherited.

In 2017, more of the same.  Two more special sessions were called by the governor.
"I'm optimistic but look we've been to this movie before and seen what's happened in the past,” said Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans.

Dr. Robert Collins, Ph.D., teaches political science and urban politics at Dillard University in New Orleans and worked on Capitol Hill for former Senator J-Bennet Johnston and John Breaux, and served as a liaison to the state legislature.

He said the republican controlled legislature and the democratic see things differently politically and progress has been affected, as a result.
"The problem here is that you have a governor and the legislature who because they are of different political parties have significantly different philosophies on spending, on budgeting, on deficits,” said Dr. Collins.

Collins was asked who he thinks has the most at stake if the budget crisis is not resolved after so many special sessions.
"The governor stands to lose the most simply because people focus on the governor and they expect him to get the job done regardless of who’s in the legislature,” Dr. Collins stated.

Many republicans have said they will not consider new taxes unless they are coupled with legislation to curb long-term state government growth and that work requirements for Medicaid recipients are put in place.

The governor has gone on records stating that he favors work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients.
"There are some things that some folks are pushing that are not real solutions like some of these Medicaid issues that don't really affect our budget in fact they can inflate it,” Rep. Moreno said.

Edwards warned legislators weeks ago that funding for the pops TOPS scholarship program could be cut by 80-percent and that funds for state health care could be decimated without more funding to close the budget hole.
Prior to the start of the special session, Edwards made public his proposals for avoiding the fiscal cliff when a billion dollars in temporary taxes expire.

They include:

--Eliminating the temporary 5th penny of the state sales tax

--Cleaning the remaining four pennies of the sales tax by removing exemptions

--Taxing business utilities at 4% and industrial utilities at 2%

--Reducing the amount of excess federal itemized personal deductions taxpayers can take on state income tax returns from 100% to 50%

--and expanding sales taxes to services like debt collection, cable and satellite services and data processing services.

Most of the ideas were recommended by a blue ribbon task force created by the legislature to come up with structural budget changes.
And Dr. Collins said it does not help that Louisiana's ongoing budget problems and the lack of resolution despite back to back special sessions are getting a lot of national attention.
"Several national publications have run stories about the unusual number of special sessions that the state of Louisiana has called, so it makes us look bad nationally,” said Dr. Collins.

Governor Edwards has challenged lawmakers who have repeatedly spurned his ideas to tell him where they want to cut a billion dollars from state spending.
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