Gov. Edwards calls special session to address expiring revenue

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - Louisiana lawmakers will begin a special legislative session this month, looking to offset $1 billion in expiring revenue.

Gov. John Bel Edwards formally called the session Friday. It will begin Feb. 19 at 4 p.m. and end no later than March 7. Such a gathering is required to pass any tax measures this year, as state law bars revenue debate during the regular session that begins March 12.

“There is a growing consensus among lawmakers that the fiscal cliff can and should be addressed in February, and I agree,” Edwards said.  “After multiple meetings with House and Senate leadership, I feel confident that we are coming to an area of compromise that will allow us to make the changes we need to continue the momentum that we are seeing in our state."

The governor's call includes 17 items, proposing either revenue replacements, spending control measures or changes to the state's Medicaid program.

"This special session will give us the opportunity to make reforms that we all know are needed in Louisiana to stabilize our budget and tax code making it more predictable and fair for Louisiana taxpayers," the governor said.

Most of the measures, if passed, would help offset the fifth penny of state sales tax that expires July 1. Lawmakers first introduced the temporary revenue in 2016, to bridge any future tax changes. Republican legislators ultimately opposed proposals backed by Edwards.

"You can't say no to everything," the governor said Thursday. "That doesn't work. It never gets anything fixed."

While Senate President John Alario and House Speaker Taylor Barras -- the Legislature's two highest-ranked Republicans -- support fixing revenue in a special session, other House GOP members oppose the governor's call.

"This is a waste of money," Rep. Reid Falconer (R-Mandeville) tweeted after Edwards announced the session.

Lawmakers remain similarly divided over specific revenue proposals. Edwards has rejected a recommendation by some House Republicans to renew at least part of the expiring sales tax revenue long-term, while Barras has said House Republicans would not support Edwards' proposal to tax cable television and Internet streaming services.

"Those revenue enhancement ideas are just not gaining traction among members," the speaker said Thursday.

This will be Edwards' fifth special session on fiscal matters since he became governor in January 2016. Such sessions typically cost up to $60,000 a day.

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