Blame game starts as soon as Louisiana special session ends

Lawmakers play the blame game
Updated: Mar. 5, 2018 at 9:13 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Louisiana leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties blame the other for the failure of lawmakers to address the state's budget deficit.

It is estimated the special session cost taxpayers $900,000, and lawmakers have little to show for their efforts.

Two bills did pass, but the bills do not address the state's $994 billion deficit.

"The governor continue to move the goalpost and what he considered to be what he wanted," Metairie Representative Cameron Henry-R said. "Next time the governor decides to call a special session he needs to make sure he has a clear plan of what he wants to do and that he has support of 53 and at times 70 members to do it. To call us into a special session to see whether or not you can pass something is an absolute travesty.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said it was House leadership, mainly speaker Taylor Barras-R, who failed to commit to agreements previously made.
"I related facts about the proposal, his proposal, that he put on the table and how he walked away from it the very first day of the special session without even the courtesy of a phone call to me," Governor Edwards said. "That is what turned the session on its ear and made it very very difficult to recover."

A non-partisan group was paid by the state to come up with solutions to fix this budget, and it has.

The group said the state had both a revenue and spending problem, and the state should address the budget deficit with increases to sales tax, reducing tax exemptions and cuts to state agencies and programs.

However, none of the bills addressing the solutions the group gave to lawmakers passed.

Gov. Edwards said the ball is now in republicans' court with the regular session starting next week.

"This will be the opportunity for those in the legislature who insist that the state of Louisiana can simply cut its way to solve the cliff. They get a chance next week to show us how they would do that. We'll see if they can pass a budget with $692 million less in state general funds next fiscal year that we have this year. I don't believe it's possible. I've said that before," Edwards said.

Central La. Rep. Barry Ivey said there is plenty of blame for all involved to go around.

"The sad reality is they're probably both right. That at different times things changed on both sides. I can't speak to that because I haven't been a part of those negotiations," Ivey said.

Ivey is a like the majority of lawmakers not privy to behind closed door meetings between leaders of both parties.

He is frustrated over the back and forth that leaves the state is limbo, especially when both sides tell the same story and trust is nearly non-existent in Baton Rouge.

"I have recommended very highly to the leadership that they use some ancient technology that we know of as a pen and write it down and that way people's memories don't have to go to task so hard on what was actually committed to," Ivey said.

With both sides not committing to anything, lawmakers will likely end up back in another special session after the regular session.

"I think it's going to be clear that while we have ways to improve our spending practices we really do have a structural revenue problem that needs to be addressed and we're gonna have to do it sooner or later," New Orleans Representative Walt Leger III-D said.

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