Louisiana senators warn another special session is coming

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With the current legislative session halfway over, some state lawmakers are already warning they are on a collision course with yet another special session to deal with the state budget.

"I hate to say this, but it appears we may be back in for a special session," said Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge.

In the Senate, legislators are currently left waiting.

"Until the House sends us something, we're kind of at a stalemate," said Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans.

All major tax and budget bills start in the House, and so far, only the state's operating budget has gotten through. Major tax reform measures, including many of the governor's own recommendations, have either died in a Republican-controlled House committee or are currently waiting on the House floor for a vote.

"We can't keep kicking the can down the road. We can't keep coming into session and ending in the same posture. At some point, we really have to do what we're sent here to do," said Carter.

Last year, as lawmakers did major surgery on the state budget, legislators collectively pointed their fingers to the 2017 session as the time for tax reform. But now, senators from both parties say that is unlikely to happen. Some lawmakers admit that by the end of the session, they may end up just keeping the sales tax at the same level and putting off big decisions until later.

"That's not what we said we were going to do. In the beginning, we made a commitment to the people," said Barrow.

"Everything takes a while to get through, and it may take a couple years, it may take more than that," said Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia.

Part of the disagreement seems to center on what the goal is with reform. Many Republicans say they do not want reform to lead to tax hikes.

"The reform I see is not more taxes, it's restructuring what we have and living within the means of that. Not increasing revenue," said Riser.

However, Democrats warn that without additional tax revenue coming in, programs such as higher education, healthcare, child welfare, and more could be left short. The governor has already told lawmakers both publicly and privately that they may need to come back to the capitol again.

"That's unfortunate. We have the ability to fix it now," Carter said. "We have a fiscal session, we're here. We shouldn't have to come back into the special session to spend more of the taxpayers' dollars."

Lawmakers can only work on tax measures during sessions in odd-numbered years, meaning that next time they get a crack at it will be in 2019. If they need to deal with the budget or taxes before then, they can come in for a special session.

The current session must end by 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 8.

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