The Revenue Estimating Conference is now estimating close to $1 billion in deficits for this fiscal year, following the release of the latest projections Wednesday.

Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, says the increased projections will probably mean steep cuts and the addition of a tax.

“It’s $870 million and growing,” he said. “It’s not a good scenario but we have to face it. It’s just one of those deals where you put things off and put things off and now you have to deal with it. This is going to be a very, very tough time for a lot of elected officials. You have to make these decisions and you can’t blame somebody else.”

The REC made projections for the end of this fiscal year ending June 30, and for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. It prepares the initial and revised estimates of money to be received by the state general fund and dedicated funds for the current and next fiscal years that are available for appropriation.

At this point, Reynolds does not know what cuts will be made but there’s only $3 billion to $4 billion from a $25 billion budget that is undedicated – health and hospitals and education, he said.

The Joint Budget Committee will meet Saturday to discuss the latest projection.

“That’s where they’ll talk about what to do and how to do it,” Reynolds said. “Then Sunday afternoon, we’ll start the special session. Monday morning will be the first time we meet with appropriations.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement Wednesday following the meeting. He says cuts alone aren’t going to fix the issue.

“This is a fiscal crisis, the likes of which we have never seen,” Edwards said. “We will come through this together, but we have reached the end of the road where cuts alone will work to solve this problem. We will need to work to find additional revenue to continue delivering the most basic of vital state services.”

Edwards will give a televised address statewide Thursday.

“The challenges facing Louisiana are so severe, and the risk of doing nothing is so big, that it is important for me to outline these problems directly to the people,” Edwards said. “I promised to be open and transparent with the people of Louisiana and give them the facts, and that’s what I intend to do.”

Reynolds says he believes the implementation of the Stelly Plan is what threw Louisiana into its current spiral and with the steep crash in oil and gas prices, the state is just not bringing in the revenue it needs to make up for the shortfall.

“Before too long, it will be a $1 billion shortfall, and by the end of next year, it will be $2 billion,” Reynolds said. “With oil just crashing, it’s really come home to roost. There’s going to be a lot of people laid off.”

The special session begins Sunday, Feb. 14, but on Saturday, Edwards is expected to present the executive budget to the legislature.

Edwards to address budget woes, tax hikes in rare speech to be broadcast on LPB at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards is taking his case for taxes directly to Louisiana’s residents.

The Democratic governor is asking lawmakers to raise taxes to help balance Louisiana’s deficit-riddled budget in a special legislative session to begin Sunday. Ahead of that session, Edwards plans a Thursday night “special address to the citizens of Louisiana.”

The governor’s speech will be aired at 6:30 p.m. on Louisiana Public Broadcasting and on major television and radio stations around Louisiana.

In a statement, Edwards said the state’s financial troubles are so severe that he’s decided he needed the rare televised speech to outline the problems to Louisiana’s people.

This year’s budget gap is estimated at around $850 million. The budget must be rebalanced by June 30. Next year’s shortfall tops $2 billion.

After Edwards’ office announced the speech, the Republican Party of Louisiana sent letters Wednesday to TV and radio stations that will be airing the address, calling for them to allow time for a GOP response.