It’s no secret that Louisiana is in serious financial trouble.
Democratic State Senator Francis Thompson says, “I’ve been doing this for over four decades. It is the worst I have ever seen.”
Governor John Bel Edwards has already submitted a proposed budget, but he says its not pretty.
He says, “This is not the budget I want to sign into law.”
Edwards is asking the state house and senate to help craft a better plan during this special session.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to share in the budget deficit by cuts, by revenue raised and by expenditure savings by both bodies,” says Thompson.
It includes adding a one cent increase to the current sales tax as a way to boost the state’s revenue, which is currently closely connected to the decreased price of oil.
Another tax solution could be to set a standard price for oil and make the difference of the base price count as the tax.
Republican State Representative Rob Shadoin explains, “As the cost per gallon goes up and whenever it gets to two dollars or whatever the digit would be then that tax drops off and we go back to our regular gasoline and road repair tax.”
Those are two of over 30 options state law makers are looking at to fill the budget shortfall.
Thompson says, “I think they are expecting some cuts and some revenue raising legislation that would include a whole group of different tax proposals.”
Not everyone, especially members of the Republican party, believe tax hikes are the answer.
“I do like to approach this as where can we see some efficiencies in reduction before we go to revenue,” says Shadoin.
However, making cuts to the budget is no easy task.
About 16 billion dollars of the state’s budget is tied to federal regulations and about 7 billion is constitutionally allocated to K- 12 education and the department of health and hospitals. That leaves about two billion for all other government agencies.
Shadoin says, “If people think they can cut their way to a balanced budget, that is fine, but if you take two billion dollars and don’t raise any revenue, then you would be shutting down every agency in the state except our schools and health and hospitals.”
Some cuts are going to be made, but legislators tell us deciding what to cut is going to be difficult.
“Now, the harder cuts are going to require a scalpel. That’s when it gets delicate, and it gets very. very tedious and challenging,” says Shadoin.
State law makers say saving funds for education is a priority, but they will still feel some of those cuts.
“We can’t be competitive with other states in this nation for jobs, for future development without a good, strong meaningful education system,” says Thompson.
Throughout the special session, bills with proposed solutions to solving the budget are going before the House of Representatives and the Senate for votes.
The goal is to end the special session with a balanced budget for this fiscal year.
“We have a lot of problems to try to work out in three weeks, but I am cautiously optimistic,” says Thompson.
According to the Louisiana constitution, most of the budget problems can only be addressed during the three week special session.
There is a regular session following it, but the budget won’t be a part of it.
Click here to see the proposed list of options the legislators are considering.