SPECIAL SESSION 2018: House fails to pass sales tax bill; special session's future in question

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After House lawmakers squashed the first major tax bill Wednesday night, the future of the special session remains in question. Some lawmakers are even suggesting they may just call it quits and go home.

On the House floor, lawmakers vented their frustration.

"The people of Louisiana are better than what we're delivering because so far we've delivered nothing," said Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston.

"I can't tell you how many members have asked me, why are we here? What are we doing here?" said Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.

After hours of debate and closed-door discussions, the House failed to pass a bill that would have helped fill in the state's projected $1 billion shortfall. It received a vote of 38-67.

The bill would have preserved a portion of the expiring penny of sales tax. Starting in July, a penny of the state sales tax falls off the books creating the shortfall. Currently at 5 percent, the state sales tax is scheduled to drop to 4 percent. The tax bill would have kept the sales tax at 4.25 percent until 2021.

The bill was pushed by those Republicans open to taxes. However, most Democrats voted against the measure, saying it would negatively impact the lower class.

As debate played out on the House floor, some lawmakers criticized their fellow lawmakers, saying the projected $1 billion fiscal cliff should have been addressed years ago during one of the past special sessions. This is their fifth special session in two years.

Some directly called out members of their own party, saying they should be "ashamed."

"Instead of focusing on the real problems that affect the people of our state, we decide to play political games," said Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central. "What's going to advance our own political agenda? We don't want a Democrat governor to get re-elected and we don't want to give him a political win by doing tax reform."

The head of the House GOP - Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria – fired back.

"Are we doing something on purpose to make the governor fail?" he said. "I can talk about that all day long. That's the kind of stuff I step in when I'm dealing with my cows in the pasture."

In a statement, the Office of Gov. John Bel Edwards said he is in "disbelief," describing what happened on the floor as "chaotic."

House lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol at 3 p.m. Thursday. At that point, they could vote to end the session, leaving the fiscal cliff unaddressed.

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