There is still strong disagreement in the House and Senate about how much money to spend and trying to broker a compromise before the legislative session ends at 6 p.m today (Thursday June 8th).
Awaiting final passage are measures to pay for state government agencies, public services and colleges in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and to finance construction projects around Louisiana.
John Bel Edwards has called for a precautionary special session to begin after adjournment in case a budget agreement isn’t complete. Legislative leaders said they didn’t expect the extra time to be needed, but with financial negotiations at an impasse, there were increasingly questions about that assumption.
If they are able to reach a budget agreement, that will be one of the only major accomplishments of the sluggish session. Lawmakers reached no deals on taxes and no agreement on how to solve a more than $1 billion financial gap that hits in mid-2018 when temporary taxes expire, creating the inevitability of another special session sometime in the near future.
On the tax front, frustration could be found in both the House and Senate.
“It’s hard to watch Louisiana fall on its face, which is what I do believe we are seeing at the moment,” Rep. Julie Stokes, a Jefferson Parish Republican who unsuccessfully pushed structural tax changes, told lawmakers at a recent hearing.
Lawmakers spent months talking about how this legislative session would focus on a tax overhaul to stabilize Louisiana’s finances and end boom-and-bust budget cycles.
A year earlier, the majority-Republican Legislature passed more than $1 billion in temporary taxes, giving them June 2018 expiration dates, so lawmakers could do a more substantive overhaul this session. A study group offered a roadmap that its members said would achieve stability and plug holes.
But the House, where most tax measures must start, bottled up anything that could be considered a tax hike and jettisoned nearly every bill recommended by the task force. The Senate, which was more interested in a comprehensive package of tax changes, was stymied in what members could do with no cooperation from the House.