BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana governor says he's not confident he will have the deal he needs to call a special session in February.
With a deadline originally slated for Friday, House GOP leaders and Governor John Bel Edwards so far have not reached an agreement on how to deal with the state's $1 billion shortfall. "We haven't had anything to negotiate, because the other side has not brought forth any proposals," Edwards said.
Back in December of 2017, Edwards introduced his tax plan to replace roughly $1 billion in revenue falling off the books next year. Edwards wanted buy-in from legislators on a deal. House GOP leaders have pushed back, saying the governor's plan does not include enough specifics. "Up until now, the governor has provided a few talking points, but no detailed plans to address the billion dollar shortfall," tweeted Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, on January 8. Henry chairs the House Appropriations committee, which plays a powerful role in crafting the state budget.
Edwards says without new taxes to replace those expiring, state universities, TOPS, hospitals, and more will once again be on the table. "There's absolutely no reason to go into a regular session without trying to fix the cliff first, because I assure you they're not going to pass a budget that makes those painful cuts," Edwards said.
Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, expressed frustration that a special session may not happen next month. "There's enough smoke in order for us to do something, but too many of my colleagues want to actually see real fire," he said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, said the governor should still call a special session regardless, even if there is no fixed agreement. He said he and other members of the House GOP are open-minded to some of his proposals and want to keep the process moving. "We don't usually make decisions way in advance. That's just the reality," he said.
Foil indicated he may be open to widening the scope of items that can be taxed under the sales tax, to include things like cable TV. He said Republicans likely will not be so open to changes to the income tax brackets.
But whether the governor will go forward without House leadership on board remains unclear. "I'm not going to have a special session just for the sake of having one," he said.
Edwards is scheduled to meet Friday morning with House leaders, including Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, to see if they are any closer to a deal. Then on Monday, the governor will officially take the wraps off his budget proposal for next year, taking into account the projected $1 billion shortfall. That reveal was originally scheduled for Friday, but was pushed back due to winter weather.