The special session of the Legislature starts Monday, but if you look back over the last few years, it’s hard to find many of them that were really all that “special.” Is there any reason to think this one will be? Perhaps.
Governor John Bel Edwards had said earlier that he would not call a special session unless he felt certain there were enough votes in the House of Representatives to pass revenue measures to avert the fiscal cliff. In other words, he wanted a deal with the legislative leadership before moving forward.
Well, it seems apparent that there is no “deal” just yet, but CABL believes there are reasons for cautious optimism. The governor has been meeting with the legislative leadership on a somewhat regular basis lately. Both sides have put some ideas on the table. And apparently there’s enough substance there and potential agreement to move forward. That’s good.
It’s also critically important. The state has been in budget chaos for most of the last decade. It’s time for that to stop. From CABL’s perspective this session needs to accomplish at least three things:
- It needs to end the practice of having temporary taxes.
- It needs to stabilize the budget for the long term.
- And it needs to do so in a way that is consistent with the reform recommendations put forward by the legislative task force that studied and reported on these issues in 2016.
If one were really optimistic, you would add a fourth need and say this session should also bring some reform to our fiscal structure that makes Louisiana more competitive than we are today. That might be a bridge too far this time, but at the very least we should do no harm and seek to replace the temporary revenues in a way that makes better sense than what we have now.
CABL does have one request to state leaders. Please resolve this issue in the special session and don’t delay until June when there really is no margin for error. Louisiana doesn’t need to have drama-filled hearings on a budget that makes a billion dollars in cuts. We don’t need to have state agencies preparing massive layoff or furlough plans. And we don’t need to scare citizens about losing critical services or students worried about reductions in TOPS.
Granted, where things stand now, this is certain to be a difficult debate. Things will get contentious and it may not look pretty. Governing is a process and sometimes that’s just the way it goes. But that’s okay, if at the end of the day, we can say we succeeded and agreed upon some acceptable solutions.
Congress is dysfunctional, and people have pretty much come to accept that. That doesn’t need to be the case for Louisiana.