It’s becoming something of a tradition for Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Two months before legislators go to the State Capitol for the regular session, they’ll make an early appearance to figure how they will cap a $304 million mid-year budget.
Some lawmakers question the need for a special session and others say the cost – $50,000 per day for the 10-day session – does not help the budgetary woes.
But it falls in line as a necessary evil, one of those matters which require their immediate attention.
Edwards has proposed a dip into the Rainy Day Fund, something which opened him to the line of critics. During his days as a lawmaker, he questioned Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tendency to turn to the reserves and one-time funding to cap the budget.
But considering the cuts higher education and healthcare have endured over the last six years, it’s probably the right choice to make.
Lawmakers do not like to dip into the Rainy Day Fund – and Edwards probably doesn’t relish in it either. He’s in a spot where he knows he will not satisfy everyone, and he apparently realizes it’s part of his job.
Last year, then-Treasurer John N. Kennedy asked lawmakers to consider a review of the consulting contracts, all of which total around $30 million. It’s a big chunk of cash, but lawmakers did not even allow the measure to exit committee last year.
Certainly, the consultant deals are necessity because of federal stipulations. But it would seem sensible to at least peruse through the thousands of contracts to determine which are necessary and which are not.
The unwillingness to make necessary changes will bring the same problems every year and send the legislators back to Baton Rouge for one special session after another.
Tax reform might the key to state’s budget instability, but it will likely prove divisive in the same manner as anything else with the word “tax” in it.
Bloomberg ranks the Louisiana tax code among the worst in the country, “Where aspects of the tax code have been irrational, the worst in the country and unparalleled in complexity.”
The state needs to act fast. Federal funding from hurricanes is no longer on the table, and oil revenue has not increased quickly enough to satisfy state coffers.
It may also be time to consider the complicated sales tax collection, for which all 64 parishes have the ability to collect and administer sales tax. It’s tough on businesses, which have to muddle through different rates and exemptions state wide.
A stretch in the tax credit programs from 10 to 20 years for industry may also prove wise. The credits large companies received for setting up shop in Louisiana created jobs, but the state took in less than what it doled out in credits. Anywhere else, it’s bad business.
The special sessions represent a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. It’s time for the state to take a long look at tax reform.
Otherwise, they can count on mid-year special sessions again and again.