Looming Fiscal Cliff Could Fuel Another Budget Battle

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - To paraphrase a high-ranking state House Republican: the political divides before last week's budget deal may seem like Disneyland, compared to the storm possible next year.

 

Legislators are staring down a $1.3 billion budget gap for the 2018-19 fiscal year, after failing in this past regular session to address expiring sales tax revenue. The conservative House blocked all proposed tax hikes, leaving the moderate Senate and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards with little negotiating room.

 

"The Legislature -- specifically the House, because that's where these revenue measures have to originate -- had before it bills filed to do every single thing that the task force recommended for budget and tax reform, and did none of them," the governor told reporters Friday, after the special session adjourned.

 

Lawmakers now have two options to address the so-called "fiscal cliff." One would involve another special session before next March, to draft tax policies that would replace the expiring dollars. The other option would involve passing a budget next year more than a billion dollars short of the state's general fund. That could endanger funds to state education, corrections and child-family programs, including those that will receive state dollars this year.

 

The option chosen may ultimately hinge on Gov. Edwards' level of confidence with House Republican leaders. After fighting to reserve funds in the event of a budget shortfall, House Speaker Taylor Barras refused to let his chamber vote on the Senate's version of the budget. That's a move the governor says made a special budgetary session inevitable.

 

"Until I can be reasonably assured that a special session would not result in the same inaction, the same failure of leadership, why would I [call a special session on taxes]?" said the governor Friday.

 

An answer may take months to determine, but already, one Senate Democrat has a prediction.

 

"More than likely, we're going to wait until the last minute to address it," said Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte).

 

 

 

House Speaker Taylor Barras says dealing with the projected shortfall will likely require both cuts and taxes, but whether the state House will have the appetite for those taxes remains unknown.


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