The decision rendered by Gov. John Bel Edwards in just over a week could speak volumes about how the state will address one of the most challenging fiscal issues in several years.
Gov. Edwards wants to call a special session after Mardi Gras to address the “fiscal cliff” the state will face when the temporary one-cent sales tax comes off the books on June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
The expiration of the sales tax will take $1.074 billion in revenue off the books and create a continuation shortfall of around $450 million.
Gov. Edwards said in December he would only call the session if lawmakers from both sides of the floor could set a basic agreement on how it would close the budget gap.
Some lawmakers from Livingston Parish see it as a possibility, while others do not envision a compromise before the deadline.
The special session would allow the state to move past the shortfall before they convene for the regular session March 12. It would also spare the possibility of layoffs which could come to play if the state is not certain funding will be in place for those jobs at the start of the 2019 Fiscal Year, which begins July 1.
It’s obvious that the state fiscal woes will not be resolved quickly or quietly. In the end, it will likely take concessions from both sides of the flood to eke out an agreement.
But the notion that they cannot even find middle ground on what they would discuss in a special session poses a red flag. Naturally, both sides blame the other.
Higher taxes are not the answer, but at the same time we do not need additional cuts to education and healthcare. It’s going to take tough and painful decisions from both sides of the floor.
It would seem sensible that they would go into a special session, hammer out the details early and spare state agencies uncertainty when the fiscal year nears its end.
Will lawmakers embrace compromise and move toward a commonsense approach?
It seems like the right move to make, but it also sounds too good to be true.
In other words, don’t count on it.