State Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, painted a gloomy picture of Louisiana’s budget if legislators can’t come together to find a solution to plug an $800 million hole.
Gov. John Bel Edwards called a special session that begins Sunday, and Reynolds says that may mean cuts to higher education and healthcare, something Edwards promised not to cut this year.
“If we get down there and there are no agreements and we are deadlocked, I think they’ll just end the special session and let the budget crumble,” he said. “If nothing is done in the special session, then there has to be $800 million in cuts, and if there are no budget structure changes – if nothing is done – those cuts are going to come from health and hospitals and higher education.”
Edwards, in an editorial, says Louisiana is facing an expected $2 billion shortfall for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
“This is the largest budget deficit in the history of our state,” he wrote. “Those numbers are not just my numbers. The legislature’s fiscal advisers as well as independent economists, such as LSU’s Jim Richardson, agree. We are in dire straits. Because these facts surrounding the budget have changed so significantly, so must the solutions we consider. The simple fixes and easy cuts were made years ago. There are no ‘easy’ solutions left, and after eight years of living in budget fantasyland, it is time to govern — and to speak the truth.”
The broad areas that will be covered in the nearly month long session will include taxes, possible tax cuts, budget cuts and possible budget reform measures, Reynolds said.
“We won’t know until the end of the week when the actual bills are filed,” he said. “It could come down to the hard right with the Republicans against the governor, and nothing gets done. Or, it may come down to Democrats in the middle, Republicans in the middle and we’ll get together and work on solutions. I’m hoping for the latter.”
Reynolds says tax revenue is way down with the steep drop in oil prices, which means they will either have to cut services or raise taxes to generate revenue.
“We’re going to have to do something to balance the budget, because the constitution says we have to have a balanced budget,” he said. “You cannot have an unbalanced budget. That’s where we are. I’m very hopeful that we can get some stuff done. If we don’t, the consequences are dire.”
In the governor’s proclamation, Edwards is calling for reductions in spending and expenses, amendments to the Louisiana Constitution to deductible items in computing state income taxes and many other possible solutions to close the gap and provide a stable, balanced budget for the next fiscal year.
The special session will begin Sunday and go through no later than March 9. The regular legislative session will begin March 14 and run through June 16. The fiscal year begins July 1, and ends June 30, 2017.
As of press time, Sen. Ryan Gatti, District 36, was unavailable for comment.
Edwards administration seek voters’ advice on budget crisis
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration is seeking voters’ advice on how to deal with the state’s looming budget crisis.
WBRZ-TV reports the state Monday posted a special web page soliciting comments from Louisiana citizens. The site provides information on Edwards’ plan to deal with the budget gap and gives people a place to provide feedback.
For this current fiscal year, there is an estimated $750 million shortfall that must be addressed by June 30. For the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, there is already an estimated $1.9 billion shortfall.
Lawmakers begin a special legislative session to tackle the problem this weekend.