Political analyst: Second special session almost inevitable

Political analyst: Second special session almost inevitable
Louisiana Legislature (Source: WAFB)
Louisiana Legislature (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With a $750 million shortfall in the budget for the next fiscal year, political analyst Jim Engster said another special session is almost "inevitable."

"The Regular Session ends on D-Day, June 6, but it apparently it's not D-Day for the budget. It seems a special session is almost eminent unless something really unusual happens," Engster said.

State leaders started over a month ago with a $2 billion shortfall for fiscal year 2016-2017. While they managed to reduce that number by more than a billion dollars through a combination of new taxes, there still are hundreds of millions of dollars left to fill.

Lawmakers cannot introduce tax hikes during the regular session of even-numbered years, including 2016. They can only cut.

Because so many parts of the budget are constitutionally protected, higher education and the Department of Health and Hospitals will likely fall on the chopping block.

Colleges and hospitals will already have to split a $70 million bill to fix the remainder of the fiscal year 2015-2016 budget. Higher education is already having to cover the $28 million price tag for TOPS that the state itself is no longer able to afford.

"I think it's apparent that both the governor and most members of the legislature are reluctant to cut anymore because they've had enough cutting over the last eight years to last probably two or three decades," Engster said.

The state also could benefit if oil prices continue to rise, much like they have in recent weeks. Oil prices slumped dramatically earlier in the fiscal year.

"The next budget, the one for fiscal year starting July 1st, has oil at 30 dollars per barrel and it's possible it could be higher than that. And if that's the case, they may not have to do as much heavy lifting as they fear," Engster said.

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