Special session outcome still a question mark by Friday eve

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - The pressure remained on the state house Friday to pass revenue-raising bills as the state faces a huge funding shortfall for the approaching new fiscal year. State lawmakers have to wrap up the latest special legislative session by March 7 and as of early evening.

Come July $1 billion in temporary taxes will fall off the books creating a huge revenue shortage. Governor John Bel Edwards has said painful cuts will have to be made to the popular TOPS scholarship and state healthcare program without new revenues for the state's coffers.

Friday afternoon, House Speaker Pro-Tem Walt Leger failed to get enough votes to pass a bill that would have changed state income tax deductions to bring in close to $80 million more a year.

"For federal purposes, an individual cannot deduct their federal income taxes to arrive at their federal taxable income. Why should our state policy be that in order to arrive at your state taxable income you get to deduct your state income taxes," Leger told lawmakers in explaining his bill.

Some Republicans pushed back on the bill and one even suggested that the governor has lied about the shortfall being about $1 billion since the state will rake in more state income tax dollars because of changes to the federal income tax law.

That prompted a rebuke from the house floor.

"Gov. Edwards is not a liar. Nobody in this process, not him, not me, not anyone else has said that the $302 million that will come into the coffers of this state as a result of the federal cut is not included in that $994 million dollar number he referenced and that we've referenced many times. We've worked very hard in this., well, not to call people names," said Leger.

Republicans control both the House and Senate.

"You have different groups fighting for their constituents and neither group has enough to get the 70 votes that we need to raise the revenue and that's where we are. There's a lot of negotiations. I think House Bill 23 is about eight votes short," said Rep. Paul Connick, R-Marrero.

HB 23 would keep one-quarter of the temporary 5th penny on the state sales tax in place for a few years to help the looming fiscal cliff. Revenue measures must originate in the state house before moving on to the Senate.

"Lets not get this twisted, this is not just the governor's fault. I mean, this whole session is not the governor's fault. It's on the House of Representatives. Not democrat nor republican can run away from this. We are not taking care of the people's business," said Rep. John Bagneris, D-New Orleans.

"In the morning, I had hopes, but as things go forward today, it's looking more and more we're not going to have some kind of agreement," said Connick.

The Senate was in recess most of the day and has recessed until Sunday.

A member of the governor's administration said earlier in the day the outcome of the session could go either way, meaning it could make inroads on solving the budget crisis, or not.

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