As special session closes, legislators racing to close budget gap

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Legislators are racing to the finish line to try to close the gap in funding for the end of this fiscal year.

With the special legislative session closing at the end of Wednesday, legislators say before it’s all over with, more cuts could be coming to close the nearly billion gap they’ve been working on since February. District 36 Sen. Ryan Gatti says the most important issue is just getting enough to get the state through to June 30.

“There are three options to solve the problem,” he said. “Raising revenue will be a part of each. The amount will determine the level of end of year reduction in services. This late in the year, our solutions are limited to drastic cuts and passing taxes that can generate revenue between now and June 30.”

District 10 Rep. Gene Reynolds, Tuesday evening, said House Bill 122, the bill with the across the board proposed cuts, will likely come back to the floor Wednesday for debate.

“The Republicans had $77 million in cuts and the senate sent it back with $7 million in cuts,” he said. “They wanted to add back some cuts, and it looks like $12 million.”

Last week, just when legislators thought they had the gap closed to around $67 million, that number doubled when some a tax proposal late in the game fell through.

Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued what he proposed was a balance between cuts and raising revenue.

“While the comprehensive plan I proposed is not something I wanted to present, it does represent the best path forward for our state,” he said.

Edwards’ proposed $160 million in spending cuts include: $21 million made by an executive order; $38 million recommended by the governor to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (and approved by the committee); $29.5 million recommended to the legislature; and $70 million in supplemental requests from agencies that will not be fulfilled.

If the legislature fails to fill the remaining deficit for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, higher education and healthcare will begin implementing drastic cuts upon adjournment of the special session, he said.
The special session closes at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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