Special Session 2018: What to expect as La. lawmakers head back to the capitol

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Starting Monday, Louisiana legislators will be back at the state capitol for the fifth special session since just 2016. However, the problem remains the same: the state budget.

In a tweet on Sunday, Governor John Bel Edwards said there is a "surge of momentum" to deal with the state's $1 billion dollar budget problem. But should he be so optimistic?

"If Bill Murray were doing another movie, maybe 'Groundhog Day 2,' he'd play Governor Edwards, because its the same story every year," said Jim Engster, WAFB's political analyst.

In July, a penny of the state sales tax falls of the books, creating the projected billion dollar fiscal cliff. State colleges, the TOPS scholarship program, and state-backed hospitals all face potentially big cuts if lawmakers do not do something. The governor supports a series of tax ideas aimed at filling in part of the shortfall. They largely impact business and upper to middle income earners. But many Republicans are expressing skepticism, wanting to find potential cuts.

"The odds are really against the governor is getting the whole enchilada, but he may get a part of it," Engster said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are already drawing lines in the sand. Many Republicans oppose changes to the individual income tax, while Democrats are dead set against boosting the sales tax again.

"There's time, there's four months," Engster said. "But in the overall scheme, that's not a lot of time when this problem has been around for two years and they haven't resolved it."

Republicans, meanwhile, have their own ideas, which do not necessarily help fix the current shortfall. They are pushing for a new budget transparency website, plus new work requirements for some Medicaid patients.

The question remains, though: will lawmakers reach a compromise? Engster says if they don't, "It's going to be a chaotic situation that probably will not reflect well on the governor or the legislature."

Lawmakers gavel in Monday at 4 p.m., with the governor set to give an opening address around 5 p.m. Lawmakers must wrap up their work no later than the end of the day on Wednesday, March 7.

Copyright 2018 WAFB. All rights reserved.