BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For the fifth time since taking office, Governor John Bel Edwards is calling legislators back to Baton Rouge to deal with the state budget.
Edwards announced a special session starting Monday, February 19 and ending no later than March 7. Louisiana is currently facing a projected $1 billion shortfall starting July 1, when a temporary penny of the state sales tax falls off the books.
The governor spent much of the afternoon Friday meeting with legislators, trying to determine a path forward. He has also been negotiating with the Senate President and House Speaker in recent weeks. In a statement, Edwards said he is "confident that we are coming to an area of compromise," though did not spell out what that deal may look like.
The governor's call is made up of 17 items, including proposals both the governor and the House GOP have been asking for. Edwards would like to raise new taxes to replace those going away in order to avoid cuts to state agencies. His worst-case budget plan included cuts to hospitals and higher education, including an 80 percent cut to TOPS.
The governor's proposals include removing certain exemptions to the sales tax and expanding the sales tax to include certain services, such as cable television.
Republicans meanwhile are pushing for budget reforms, including new spending caps, as well as changes to the Medicaid program. They would like to see co-pays and work requirements. "We asked that it be part of the package we're talking about, to partner with some of the revenue items we're talking about," said House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia.
However, there is no guarantee they will accomplish much of anything during the 17-day session. Democrats and Republicans alike are already drawing lines in the sand about which taxes they are willing to report.
"I'm hopeful that we'll be able to resolve it. We certainly have the resources and the ability to do so. It's a matter of are people are willing to come to table in earnest and do this," said Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans.
Whether they get anything done or not, the session will come at a cost to taxpayers: an estimated $50,000 to $60,000 per day.
To read the governor's official session call, click here.