Talks of raising taxes, historic deficit grows even larger on 2nd day of special session

Talks of raising taxes, historic deficit grows even larger on 2nd day of special session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The office of Gov. John Bel Edwards gave the people of Louisiana a better idea Monday, under proposed tax hikes, how much more they would pay to smoke or drink.

On day two of the special Legislative Session, Secretary of Revenue Kimberly Robinson presented a chart to lawmakers, saying tax hikes on alcohol would bring in an immediate $6 million and $26 million next year.

"It's an across-the-board change affecting all types of alcohol," Robinson said.

The Governor's Office said most taxes on alcohol have not been raised since 1948. Edwards also wants to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $.86 a pack to a $1.08, and raise the sales tax by a penny for a quick $200 million in new money.

Raking in millions, new taxes is music to the ears of higher education leaders whose colleges and universities are on the chopping block. Higher Ed Commissioner Dr. Joseph Rallo addressed suggestions to consolidate classes and campuses.

"That's an ongoing conversation," said Rallo.

Higher ed leaders are taking criticism from lawmakers after news broke Thursday about TOPS scholarships being temporarily halted. Most payments resumed the very next day.

"I don't think there's one person in this room that thinks TOPS is over," said Sen. Michael Walsworth, R-West Monroe.

"You already started a conversation that you may not be able to end, and the way you may wind up ending it is one of our best and brightest going outside this state," Sen. Walsworth said to Rallo.

The second day of the special session began with news from Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne announcing "more bad news." This year, Louisiana will not be getting $17 million from FEMA in Hurricane Gustav money as previously expected. Instead, Dardenne said the money will come in next year.

"This is another addition to proposed solutions set forth in November that have not materialized," said Dardenne.

The commissioner said that means an extra $17 million added on top of an already massive $940 million shortfall.

"We can't completely just cut our way out of this," said Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte.

Lawmakers have cut $60 million so far from state agencies.

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