“I’d give it a big fat ‘F.’” That’s the thought coming from Rep. Gene Reynolds on this year’s legislative session so far.
With 10 days left before the 2017 legislative session ends, Reynolds, D-Minden, said nothing has been done so far that amounts to anything regarding tax reform; if legislators can’t pass a balanced budget by June 8, that could push them into a special session.
“There’s been no movement for tax reform, and the budget is still up in the air,” he said. “You’ve got one group wanting to fund 97.4 percent of the budget and another group wanting 100 percent. You have cuts; nothing is coming out, nothing is being done, nothing is coming out of committee, so I have to give us a big fat ‘F’. We’re still fighting, though.”
His main two concerns about the $29.5 billion budget that currently sits with the Senate are tax reform and the temporary sales taxes imposed last year. They roll off in 2018, and he worries that could leave the legislature heading toward a $1 billion fiscal cliff.
Reynolds said the budget’s next stop is the conference committee, and what comes out of that committee will go to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who will either sign it or veto it.
“If he vetoes it, then we’ll have to go right back into special session because we have to have a balanced budget,” he said. “If not, then the fiscal cliff, when the penny sales tax rolls off, we’ll have to address that. In order to just maintain what we have, you have to do something to plug those holes. That’s where tax reform comes in.”
In tax reform, no new taxes are created, but some exemptions will be slashed to free up money.
As for healthcare and education – the two major funds without any protection – Reynolds said the cuts would be minimum as of right now. That could change if the state reaches the fiscal cliff.
“If we don’t find any money or do any kind of tax reform, they are the ones open for cuts, and those cuts would be catastrophic,” he said. “That’s a lot of ifs. There’s a lot of process to go through before you can say one way or the other what’s really going to happen. There’s no way to know.”
Phone calls for comment to Sen. Ryan Gatti, District 36, were unreturned as of press time.