Lawmakers begin 3rd special session to shore up budget shortfall
BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Legislators have just days to come up with a solution for the state's temporary sales tax expires at the start of the new fiscal year.
"I am here simply to ask you to work with me and with each other to get the job done," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Edwards got straight to the point in his address to the Legislature.
"The time for politics, the time for partisanship is over. The time for solutions is now," he said.
Lawmakers reconvened for the third special session to remedy a looming fiscal cliff. Come July 1, the state's temporary sales tax will expire, leaving Louisiana nearly $650 million in the hole, unable to adequately fund vital programs like higher education, TOPs and food stamps.
"We can get that all done by renewing .5 cents of sales tax. We came up a few votes short but I feel confident that we're going to get there this time,"
explained Democratic Rep. Walt Leger.
Leger is confident a solution is in the works and expects several bills ready for the Senate before the end of the week. The Senate voted on a 4.5 percent sales tax last special session, but the House was split between 4.5 and 4.3.
Yet, Rep. Wesley Bishop says he's optimistic after recent conversations with those who voted down the half-percent renewal.
"It is my hope and my desire that we get to the 4.5, we get those 70 votes and call it a day," Bishop said.
Other lawmakers are still pushing back.
"I haven't seen any compromise. For us, compromise was last session when we propose to do 1/3 of the penny," said Rep. Representative Beryl Amedee.
Amedee says a number of departments aren't using funding efficiently and worries taxes could prove burdensome for her constituents.
"We still have people being laid off, we still have people who have their hours cut just to keep their jobs. This is not a time I can go home on the weekends and say hey I've just solve the state budget crisis by taking more money out of your pocket," Amedee explained.
It's why some legislators worry this third special session will end without a solution.
"We could easily blow this thing again," said Representative Julie Stokes. "You've got one group telling their constituents that the state is broke and we're in a dire mess. You've got the other half, representatives, telling their people we've really got more money than we need and we're just wasting it so we should cut your taxes. We're not disagreeing about how we do it anything. We're not disagreeing about policy, we're disagreeing about the truth."
It costs taxpayers close to $60,000 each day lawmakers are in the special session. The session must end by June 27.