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La. governor calls for special session on taxes

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - Louisiana lawmakers will begin a special session next week, seeking once more to close a projected $648 million budget gap.

Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a call Monday to begin the session May 22 and end it no later than June 4. The gathering will be largely focused on measures to replacing taxes falling off the books June 30.

"There are not other new options to consider," the governor told reporters Monday. "They don't get better with age, not like a good wine. At some point, you just have to summon the courage and do what is necessary."

Edwards wants lawmakers to stall budget talks until after they pass revenue bills, though legislators continue their negotiations. Last month, House GOP leaders spearheaded a proposal to shave 20 percent from the TOPS tuition aid program, close safety-net hospitals and eliminate the state aid that keeps tens of thousands of elderly and disabled Louisianians in nursing homes and group care. The Senate's version of the budget would protect funds to nursing homes and safety-net hospitals, though it would reduce TOPS funds by 30 percent. The governor spoke against budget proposals from both chambers.

"It would be the height of irresponsibility if we were to allow that to happen," Edwards said. "It's not worthy of the people of Louisiana."

Edwards has said he would veto a budget that hits his desk before a special session, though when asked Monday, he did not elaborate.

State legislators are working to consider a final stretch of non-revenue bills before ending the regular legislative session Friday. State law prevents lawmakers from considering revenue measures in this year's regular session.

This will mark the sixth special session since Edwards took office in January 2016. Lawmakers failed to address the looming shortfall in a session earlier this year, when state House Republicans rejected virtually all tax proposals backed by Edwards.

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