Southwest Louisiana legislators expect contentious session

Published 8:06 am Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WELSH — The state’s budget and its $1.6 billion deficit will be the biggest challenges facing legislators when the legislative session begins next month in Baton Rouge, according to two Southwest Louisiana lawmakers.

Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish and Rep. Johnny Guinn voiced their views on the upcoming fiscal session and the work ahead of them during the Jeff Davis Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative forum breakfast.

Both said the session will be contentious and that all focus will be on trying to balance next year’s budget when the 60-day session opens April 13.

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“In my 19 years I have served, this is going to be the most contentious session that I’ve ever served in,” Morrish said.

“It’s not going to be easy because we have had deficits over the past six years. But we’ve used every plug, every bell and whistle, and turned over the couches and dug for money between the cushions to balance the budget but there’s none left.”

Morrish said he could probably sum up the state’s financial condition by simply saying, “We’re broke.”

“I’m pretty sure that I’ve probably stood at this podium in the past and said we had some pretty big deficits,” he said. “I know last year and the year before I talked about a deficit in Louisiana and I said the good news is it’s getting better. It’s coming down. The deficit was not as big as it was, but we can’t say that this year. It’s bigger than it’s ever been except in the first years of (former governor) Buddy Roemer.”

To address the deficit, the Jindal administration has talked about cuts in higher education, raising more revenue and reducing tax credits, but nothing is concrete, Morrish said.

He said the budget, which must be passed by lawmakers by June 11, will look nothing like the one the governor recently proposed, and he assured those attending the breakfast that it will be a balanced budget.

Guinn, who is in his second term as representative, agreed the session will be tough for lawmakers.

“There’s definitely going to have to be a lot of work done, and it’s going to be quite interesting,” Guinn said. “This is probably one of the most contentious sessions in Louisiana’s history. I don’t know if we’ve ever been this short. Constitutionally we do have to have a balanced budget.”

Guinn compared the upcoming session to making homemade sausage.

“There’s an old saying that making legislation is like making sausage,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of different things put in the mix by the time it comes out at the end.”

Guinn said lawmakers are pondering all kind of solutions to fill the budget gap, including a gas-processing or cigarette tax and a cut to tax credits.

“But the governor has been real adamant that any taxes you pass are going to have to be revenue neutral with what taxes he cuts off,” Guinn said.

Ultimately, he said, the taxpayers and families in the state of Louisiana will have to foot the bill, but vowed he will not support legislation that hurts the people of Louisiana.

He said the state needs to be fiscally responsible and should have never gotten into such a deep deficit with all its natural resources available.””

(American Press Archives)