Louisiana is barreling toward yet another budget mess, but the governor says he wonders if another special session would really amount to just a waste of time.
“Until I can be reasonably assured that a special session will not result in the same inaction, the same failure of leadership, why would I call one?” Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters Friday, less than an hour after the fourth special session of his term ended.
Next year, many of the short-term taxes legislators put in place during the 2016 special sessions to deal with the state’s budget crisis will go away, leaving an estimated hole of more than $1 billion.
“We don't have a bridge any more on this fiscal cliff,” said Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston.
Any special session would likely call for passing taxes to replace the ones going away. But, as seen this year at the capitol, taxes are a hard sell. While lawmakers were supposed to deal with the fiscal cliff during this year’s session, that never happened.
“The appetite for raising taxes, as you saw with the fuel tax, was virtually not there,” said House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia.
Legislators originally pointed to 2017 as the year for tax reform. Those efforts, however, did not come to fruition. Many reform proposals got stuck in a Republican-controlled House committee. If lawmakers come back to Baton Rouge again, the tax ideas will likely be pretty similar to the ones they already vote down.
“My concern is, what will have changed in people's minds to get them to tackle the issue of tax reform,” said Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.
The alternative to taxes is cuts totaling more than a billion dollars. Under such a reduction, programs could be outright eliminated, with state colleges and healthcare likely bearing the brunt.
“I hope reasonable people will sit down and say, ‘Listen, we've got a serious problem and we all need to pitch in and solve it,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.
The governor said he will be looking to House leadership to bring ideas to the table for how to deal with the fiscal cliff.
The House Speaker says dealing with that projected shortfall will likely require a combination of cuts and taxes. But whether there will be the votes for those taxes remains to be seen.