La. Governor's office takes grassroots approach to gathering support for fiscal cliff fix

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With a $1 billion fiscal cliff looming next year, the governor's office is renewing their push for a budget fix.

Now, more so than before, the governor's team appears to be adopting a grassroots approach by going to constituents and business owners directly, not just lawmakers and lobbyists.
"We're going just do everything that we can to be successful," Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
This past spring, the Edwards administration failed to get enough lawmakers on board to pass a series of new taxes aimed at replacing taxes set to fall off the books. That includes the extra penny of sales tax, which sunsets at the end of the fiscal year.

"That's going to be a wakeup call for the legislature and for the people of the state," said Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.
For the second day in a row, Dardenne took to the road, warning of the impact on state programs if the fiscal cliff is not filled in. After a Tuesday visit to the Alexandria Rotary Club, he stopped by the Baton Rouge Rotary Club on Wednesday.
"If we just did it across the board, it would be a 20 percent cut to every aspect of government, which would be untenable for higher education, for healthcare, for corrections, and everybody else," Dardenne said.
Yesterday, Edwards spent hours talking to about two dozen business leaders from across the state, including some that did not support him during the campaign. His aim: getting their feedback on how best to deal with the budget crisis.
"These are people that seem to have some clout with the legislature," said Hans Sternberg, the owner of Baton Rouge-based Highflyer Human Resources.
Sternberg said most were receptive of what the governor had to say.
"No one wants to raise taxes, but the necessity is there. Our educational system is being deprived of sufficient funds," Sternberg said.
During the spring session, business lobbyists objected to many of the tax measures brought by the administration. Whether a more grassroots approach will help force the legislature's hand remains to be seen.
"I would love to be able to call a special session somewhere in the February time frame in order to fix this problem," Edwards said.
During the sessions, conservative House Republicans have served as the biggest roadblock to the governor getting those tax measures passed. He even threatened on the last day of the special session to not call a special session at all, questioning whether it would be worth it if lawmakers would not be willing to vote for the tax measures. If that were to happen, it would force the state off the fiscal cliff.
Recently, the governor sent a letter to House leadership asking them to lay out what ideas they could support to address the fiscal cliff. Edwards said, as of Wednesday, that so far has not happened.

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