SPECIAL SESSION 2018: Another stalemate? Fiscal cliff debate heads 'south in a great big hurry'

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - On Sunday, Louisiana legislators pointed to a glimmer of hope. By Monday, that optimism was dashed aside.

A week into the special session, Lawmakers are once again in a stalemate over how to address the state's projected $1 billion fiscal cliff. After tax bills overcame their first hurdle over the weekend, they stalled on the House floor.

"I think we're heading south in a great big hurry," said Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs.

"I do think things on both sides seem to be in disarray right now," said Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma.

Democrats want changes to the income tax that could impact upper- and middle-income earners. Many Republicans are looking at keeping a quarter of the expiring penny of state sales tax. With no deal in place, the House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, put off votes on tax bills as negotiations continue behind the scenes.

In public, however, lawmakers pointed fingers. The speaker called out the governor for a lack of leadership.

"I think the governor and his team need to be a little bit more clear on what direction they're choosing to take," Barras said, addressing lawmakers from the House floor.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Legislative Black Caucus and governor fired back.

"In this body we have a leadership issue. Until we address that, we will continue to have problems," said Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge.

"We ought to be sitting here today figuring out how we maintain this momentum, and get this process to a successful conclusion. And I think what the speaker did today does not bode well in our attempts to do that," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The fiscal cliff takes effect in July, when a penny of the state sales tax falls off the books. If lawmakers do not work to address the shortfall, it could put state colleges, hospital, the TOPS program, and more at risk of cuts.

The speaker said Monday they will not be on the floor Tuesday and will return Wednesday, at which point they may begin voting on the tax bills and other legislation. At that point, there will only be a week left in the session.

Will they reach a deal in time? No one seems to know.

"I'd say it's about 50-50. It could go either way. I think we're on the cliff before we get to the cliff," Magee added.

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