BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana State Legislature convened for the year's third special session, the seventh since Governor John Bel Edwards took office in 2016. The problems have not changed and the solutions remain the same.
But Edwards says there's no time left to waste, which may light a fire under the legislature that has been mired in partisan stalemate for the duration of Edwards' time as governor.
"This is it," Edwards said. "There won't be another opportunity to get this fixed. We've been through this exercise more than enough times now."
Because lawmakers found some money in the second special session, the current budget hole is about $500 million. Edwards says he thinks the plan that failed in the last minutes of the previous session is now gaining momentum. "The bipartisan compromise plan that more than two-thirds of you supported in the last special session had something for everyone, but everything for no one," Edwards said.
But the plan that would have extended 4.5 percent of the state sales tax did not have enough support to meet the 70-vote threshold a tax bill requires to pass. Republicans, who hold a majority in the House, want to shrink government by extending a smaller portion of the state sales tax. That would force lawmakers to make some cuts. Democrats want to cover as much of the current budget hole as possible by extending more of the tax.
"It's time to meet in the middle," Edwards said. "Everyone knows the real reason we're back here today for our seventh special session is not about disagreement over policy. It's more about politics."
No matter what, the state sales tax rate will be lower than last year's. However, lawmakers have broken their 2016 promise that the revenue from the tax would be replaced with structural reform.
The House Ways and Means Committee meets for the first time this session on Tuesday morning to debate the options to raise revenue, and the House Appropriations Committee will meet at the same time to determine how to continue the budgeting process.