Lengthy legislative session costly

The American Press

This year’s lengthy legislative session was frustrating to watch at times. But it ended with a compromise of sorts.

Lawmakers grappled over a temporary 1-cent sales tax that was set to expire June 30. Before the first special session started, they were faced with a potential $1.4 billion shortfall if nothing was done.

The recurring argument of whether to cut spending or raise revenue left lawmakers at an impasse. Two special sessions came and went with no solutions.

Lawmakers finally agreed during the third special session to extend a 0.45-cent sales tax for seven years. Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a stop in Lake Charles last week that the state now has a much-needed stable source of revenue that will spare cuts to higher education and health care.

You may or may not agree with the final legislative outcome. But what can’t be ignored is the amount of time, and more importantly, money, spent by the Legislature to get something done.

The Times-Picayune reported earlier this month that the three special sessions cost $1.55 million. The average daily cost was $42,921 in public funding.

More than half of the cost, or just over $906,000, came from paying legislators’ per diem expenses and repaying their travel costs to Baton Rouge.

State lawmakers can only consider revenue-rasing measures every other year. The special sessions were needed this year because any attempts during the 2017 regular session failed.

There were disagreements between lawmakers who felt more cuts could be made, versus those who said an extended temporary sales tax was essential to fund critical programs and services. Fiscal conservatives, especially those in the House, wouldn’t budge on the notion of raising taxes. 

Records show that the third and final special session cost the most per day. It ended within seven days, instead of two weeks, like the other special sessions.

What’s frustrating is that these special sessions didn’t have to happen at all. The Legislature had plenty of time during last year’s session to decide on a resolution.

Instead, they dragged out the process through three special sessions, costing over $1 million in the process.

Let’s hope this year’s experience forces legislators to work together better in reaching a compromise in the future. That way they can avoid spending extra time and money down the road.

””

Louisiana Legislature

MSgt Toby M. Valadie

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