Budget issues still loom for Louisiana

Louisiana Budget ShortfallMGN Online

Louisiana legislators appear to be winding up their regular session business this week and next with a possible early adjournment by May 18. Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to call another special session when this one ends in order to deal with an expected $648 million budget deficit for the 2018-19 fiscal year beginning July 1.

The goal is to save state funds by ending the special session on June 4, the scheduled date for the end of the regular session. Tax matters can’t be handled during the current regular session.

Although admitting some revenues are needed, Republican leaders in the House haven’t committed to whether they would support taxes or end some tax breaks in order to replace 2016 temporary taxes that are expiring June 30.

A special session held earlier this year failed to deal with the coming deficit. The House Republican leadership and members of the Legislative Black Caucus couldn’t agree on support for both income and state sales taxes to close the deficit.

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The House today will be debating bills on TOPS scholarships, school employee fees and creating a TOPS Stability Fund. Senate bills are also up for final action during the week.

Measures on the House subject to call list to be debated today include reconsideration of a bill eliminating the 70 retirement age for judges that came up one vote short earlier. Another measure deals with examination and licensing fees assessed by the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology.

A proposed constitutional convention bill may be debated Wednesday. House members throughout the week will be deciding whether to concur or reject changes the Senate made to their House bills. Those that are rejected will go to conference committees that will try to iron out the differences.

The House Appropriations Committee on Monday will hear bills dealing with waste tires, TOPS, eliminating certain constitutional dedication of revenues and certain treasury funds and a Senate measure dealing with review of dedicated funds.

Senators this week will be deciding the fate of numerous House bills on its daily digest. The hour is getting late for House bills that haven’t made it to the Senate, and the same is true for Senate measures that haven’t cleared that chamber.

The Senate Finance Committee beginning at 8 a.m. today will take public testimony on House Bill 1, the proposed state budget for fiscal year 2018-29 beginning July 1. The Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee will hold hearings Tuesday on the state construction bill and its related measures.

The fate of the proposed 2018-19 state budget (House Bill 1) that is in the Senate is unclear at the moment. Some lawmakers want to end the regular session without a budget and take it up at the special session.

The budget proposal contains heavy reductions to state health care services that could close some public-private hospitals serving poor and low-income citizens. The House also cut TOPS funding by 20 percent in an effort to get enough votes to send H.B. 1 to the Senate.

Gov. Edwards wants another special session when this one ends to deal with an expected $648M budget deficit.

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