BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The second special session has officially begun at the State Capitol, though there could be many roadblocks to raising more revenue to fill some of the budget shortfalls.
Both the Senate and House gaveled into session around 6:30 p.m. Monday. The governor called for the session as part of an effort to fill in the state's projected $600 million shortfall for the fiscal year starting July 1.
"I think if we can get close to $450 million, we can take care of the big things. TOPS would be funded at 100 percent and most of the things we need to address, higher education could be taken care of at that level," said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.
Under the budget plan adopted Sunday evening by lawmakers, TOPS would be funded at 48 percent, meaning students would have to foot about half of their tuition costs.
The partnership hospitals that treat the uninsured meanwhile will likely face deep cuts.
Alario and the Senate in general have, in large part, been receptive to tax revenue raising measures on the docket for the second special session. In the House, however, those efforts will likely hit a roadblock.
"Anything that requires 70 votes isn't going to happen, and that's tax hikes," said Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner.
Changes to certain tax exemptions on corporations may stand a better chance. They only require 53 votes.
Still, Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, as well as several other Republicans have indicated that they still intend to cast "no" votes on those measures.
"What one person sees as a corporate giveaway, another person might see as an incentive to move, to bring a business here, which we need jobs during this tough economic time," Henry said.
Stokes agrees that a blanket, sweeping approach to the tax exemptions is unwise, indicating that some exemptions "actually have a reason and they're proper."
She said too much focus has been put on low-hanging fruit for the upcoming session, such as those exemptions.
"What troubles me about it is we're going to let the tail wag the dog again. Just because something takes 53 votes doesn't make it better policy than changing a rate," Stokes said.
She supports an effort to reduce how much of the federal income tax deduction individuals can claim on their person income taxes. She said the current policy, which allows for a 100 percent reduction, is "dangerous" because it links Louisiana to a federal tax deduction that the state does not control. That measure only needs 53 votes to pass.
She also is calling for lawmakers to take on tax reform during the session, including possibly modifying tax brackets.
"Nobody's willing to deal with that, or talk about it, so we're levying it all on things like sales tax and tax exemptions," she said.
The special session continues through Thursday, June 23.