Gov. Edwards: Special Session will be Different

posted by News Talk 99.5 WRNO -

John Bel Edwards Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Gov. John Bel Edwards opened the second special session Tuesday for the Legislature's third attempt to fix the budget deficit.

Edwards called for unity from both parties during his speech at University of Louisiana Lafayette and said he believes this time around, the special session will be successful.

"From the most progressive Democrats to the most conservative Republicans, there was near-universal support in the Legislature to do better by the people of Louisiana. That's why I know this special session can be different from all the others. More of us are on the same page. We want the same things," Edwards said.

In 2016, Edwards and the Legislature approved more than $1 billion of temporary taxes over two years. That will run out June 30, causing a $648 million deficit.

"Maintaining the $648 million will allow us to adequately fund all of our critical priorities, and listen to this, will still result in a next tax cut for the people of Louisiana of $400 million," Edwards said.    

Senate President John Alario Jr. is also optimistic about this special session.

"I think it can happen if reasonable people get together and put their minds focused on solving the state's problems. I believe it can be done within this two-week period of time," Alario said.

Edwards offered his own solutions, like reducing tax exemptions and eliminating the ability to deduct what people paid for state taxes last year from this year's return.

If the Legislature doesn't approve the $648 million in replacement taxes, it's unclear what programs will be cut.

When asked if some government services could be cut, Alario said they have been trimming the budget on government for years, but that's not enough.

"This last budget exercise we went through emphasizes the need for additional funds. When they talked about putting people out of nursing homes or closing hospitals, hurting our colleges and universities, hurting the TOPS program, it showed that there's a great need for additional funds to try to make this work," Alario said.

Edwards vetoed the Legislature's proposal last week because he said the cuts were too deep.

The session is scheduled to end by June 4, giving lawmakers two weeks to solve the crisis. Otherwise, there will likely be a partial state government shutdown.

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