Week 1 of special session ends with 0 solutions for $1 billion deficit

Week 1 of special session ends with 0 solutions for $1 billion deficit

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - It is the same ole song and dance at the Louisiana State Capitol as lawmakers once again cannot agree on measures to fix the state's nearly $1 billion budget crisis.

Legislators convened last week and have little to show for their efforts to fix the deficit.

Coming out of the weekend filled with budget committee meetings and hearings, lawmakers believed an agreement was in sight but that was far from the truth.

"I think the governor's control of the democratic caucus wasn't as strong as he thought it was," Metairie Representative Cameron Henry-R said. "There was some significant push back on some legislation that we all thought we had an agreement on but it seems clearly that the democratic caucus is not in agreement with that."

Monday, House leaders ended without a measure on the table with any chance of being agreed upon.

Henry and other Republicans who want to raise sales taxes by a quarter of a penny blame Governor John Bel Edwards and Democrats for the most recent stalemate.

"It looks like the Democratic caucus is not in support of doing anything dealing with the sales tax. I'm assuming they would like that stripped. That is equal to about $220 million dollars a year. That's a significant chunk of what the governor would like to raise," Henry said.

Baton Rouge Representative Ted James-D struck back at Republicans from the House floor.

"Another three year bridge is not a solution," James said.

Democrats said they want to fix the budget crisis once and for all. The most recent sales tax increase introduced by Republicans included an amendment to only have it last for three years.

Democrats argue that plan would lead to another budget crisis in 2021.

"Three years ago we wanted to extend this for five years. You guys said let's shorten it. Now, we're going to shorten it again," James said. "We are not willing to compromise the integrity on our caucus to rely on the poor and working poor to bail us out of this situation."

"Election year is in two years, and the fact that some Republicans want to push this three years down the road just so they can get passed reelection to me is just passing on our duties," New Orleans Representative Walt Leger III-D said. "We know what the answers are. They involve broad based reforms that involve individual income tax and also involve cutting back on our tax expenditures, like credits and exceptions and exclusions and deductions."

While both sides argue over where to find revenue, leaders pushing for long-term change cannot find momentum.

"Here we are again, all on the taxpayers dime, everybody collecting per diems everyday, and realistically we are down to these two alternate versions of the truth," Kenner Representative Julie Stokes-R said.

Stokes said the two sides cannot even agree on how the state got into this deficit much less on a plan to fix it, and it is Louisiana residents caught in the middle.

"We've wasted our time, maybe our health. We've wasted the taxpayers trust," Stokes said. "The longer this goes on the more deteriorated everything becomes. I would like to see some wholeness come back to the way we deal with each other again. Fixing this would go a long way toward that."

A non-partisan group commissioned by the state looked at ways to fix the problem. The group concluded with a mixture of cuts to programs and increases to sales and income taxes a final fix is possible.

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