SPECIAL SESSION 2018: Negotiations continue ahead of 'do or die' votes Friday

SPECIAL SESSION 2018: Negotiations continue ahead of 'do or die' votes Friday
Speaker of the House Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It is the session that will not quite end. After delay upon delay, the House Speaker announced that they will be holding votes on the key tax bills on Friday.

"My intent is to go through the entire calendar tomorrow; up or down, do or die," said Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia.

With negotiations still floundering over how to fix the state budget crisis, Friday will determine whether the session continues or comes crashing to an end.

House lawmakers have still not reached a deal on taxes. Democrats want to see changes to the income tax, while Republicans who can support a tax change at all want to keep a portion of the expiring penny of sales tax.

Senate President John Alario is applying pressure, trying to force House lawmakers to act.

"There's obviously two factions there that pull against each other," Alario said. "I'm just hoping they figure out a way to get together."

However, most lawmakers are not optimistic a deal can be reached. Wednesday night, a bill preserving 25 percent of the penny of sales tax failed to get enough votes. Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, questions whether there is a "magical formula" to make it all come together.

"All I know is I don't want to cost the taxpayers money coming back into special sessions when adults should be able to figure this out rather expediently," she said.

Starting in July, a penny of the state's sales tax falls off the books, helping to create the shortfall. Currently at 5 percent, the state sales tax is scheduled to d rop 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.

In the Senate, many are frustrated by the inaction of their colleagues. Even a Republican who questioned the need for the special session admitted it was a shame nothing has gotten done.

"It would be nice to be able to raise some now, but that may not be a viable option," said Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie. "I am not one who thinks you can cut our way out of this, we will require some additional revenue. How much? I don't know."

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the House floor starting at 10 a.m. Every day lawmakers are at the state capitol for a special session costs taxpayers an estimated $50,000 to $60,000.

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