Lawmakers 'apprehensive,' 'confident' about final week of special session

Lawmakers 'apprehensive,' 'confident' about final week of special session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Any new ideas to close Louisiana's $940 million deficit are a mystery for a number of lawmakers.

State representatives were asked on Tuesday and Wednesday if they had any clue how to close the estimated remaining $150 million to $200 million gap. It is what's left factoring in all cuts and new revenue measures already on the table.

"I do not," State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans said. "I do not."

"There are a lot of questions, but very few answers," State Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, added. "I'm a little apprehensive."

And it did not help that progress seems stalled in the House.

Yet again Wednesday, the House pushed back critical votes on raising cigarette and alcohol taxes for another day.

Speaker Taylor Barras defended the move Tuesday saying, "Bear with us as we allow our authors to work these bills and their amendments, accordingly," but he gave no similar comment Wednesday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards was not seen on the floor Wednesday afternoon.

Instead, the governor met privately Wednesday morning with Republican leaders in the House and Senate, concerned time may run out to approve everything needed to close the shortfall.

State Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, was asked if she was feeling any of the same apprehension her colleagues are sharing.

She answered, "No, not at all. It's a tough job, but I believe in my colleagues. I believe in the people who came up here. Students came in thousands to say, 'Hey, we want you to save higher education.'"

Jackson's crucial piece of the puzzle, her bill to add a penny increase to the sales tax, will be back up for one more vote in the House.

She said that will happen when she feels she has enough support between Senate and House leaders to advance it to the governor's desk.

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