NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - With only a month left in the regular legislative session, Gov. John Bel Edwards reiterated Wednesday during a stop in the city that he has not abandoned the idea of having lawmakers wrap up their work early so he can have another special session to address the budget crisis.
Edwards, a Democrat, maintains that the budget bill for the incoming fiscal year that was recently approved by the GOP-dominated state House should not become reality. Republicans said they approved a spending plan in line with state finances.
"The budget can't be fixed in this regular session because we now know, based on the House Bill 1, the appropriations bill that was passed out of the House, that it is grossly insufficient," Edwards said.
The chair of the House Appropriations Committee strongly defended the worth of the budget bill carrying his name after it was approved.
"We spent money responsibly. Is it a perfect budget? No, we'll never get a perfect budget," said Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie.
The state Senate has not embraced the House passed budget. HB1 is pending before a Senate committee.
The new budget year begins July 1. One day earlier, a billion in temporary state taxes will expire, creating a "fiscal cliff" of close to $700 million for state government. To fill the holes in the budget, Edwards wants a special session before June 4, the date the regular session is mandated to end by state law. He said by cramming two legislative sessions into the same time frame, taxpayers would save money.
"I'm disappointed we got to this point because we had a fiscal session last year where they should have fixed this because we knew about the cliff when it got created back in 2015 and 2016, and I'm very disappointed that they didn't take advantage of the opportunity in February. But we can't fix what didn't happen then. We have to concentrate on fixing the problem, and I think we will," Edwards said.
"Someone will always need more. But what we've started to do is look at what agencies actually spend and base our budgets off of that. Not what they'd like to have," Henry said in late April.
Private companies running state-owned hospitals like University Medical Center in New Orleans have already warned the state that they will walk away from their agreements if they don't get adequate funding.
"As of right now, there's not a single partner hospital funded, including University Medical Center in New Orleans. There's not a single medical school that's funded. There are thousands of people across Louisiana in nursing homes that would not be able to stay there, and other folks receiving care, so that they could stay in their homes that would not be eligible for those services," said the governor.