BATON ROUGE, LA (KSLA) - Louisiana's midyear budget deficit doubled overnight. So now Gov. John Bel Edwards is pressuring legislators to find a fix for Louisiana's budget crisis - and work faster at doing it.
"I am less optimistic today as I stand before you than I was last week. And that's simply a recognition of the reality," Edwards said during a news conference Friday morning.
His office said the deficit doubled overnight. So instead of filling a $67 million hole, lawmakers have to find a way to make up a $142 million gap this fiscal year.
Edwards threw the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Louisiana House of Representatives. "We have the largest budget deficit in the history of our state, current year and next year."
When legislators went home Thursday night, only $67 million needed to be filled with either new taxes or more cuts. But they later learned that a House-passed bill will not bring in revenue in time to help with the current year's budget. The measure would have generated $75 million this year from advance sales tax payments from retailers
"To make matters worse," Edwards said, "the Legislature has wasted multiple days this week when they should have been voting."
State Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, doesn't think what Edwards said is accurate. "It's unfortunate to have the governor pit the various branches of government against one another," Johnson added.
Edwards blames state representatives, saying they have not come up with enough proposals to generate new revenue.
But Johnson notes: "He made the scope of the call of the special session really too narrow for us to be able to make the real structural budget changes that are required to fix this mess."
As for representatives' workload, Johnson said, most of the proposed bills on the calendar the past week would have raised taxes.
"There are a number of legislators, like myself, who are very reluctant to raise the tax burden on families and small businesses in our state because they're paying too much in taxes already," he said. "We want to fix the way the budget is done before any revenue is raised."
Louisiana's special legislative session must end March 9. That's in 5 days.
That still leaves enough time to solve the state's budget crisis, said Edwards and state representatives from Bossier and Caddo parishes with whom KSLA News 12 spoke Friday.