On this first day of Hurricane Season, I can’t help but cringe at the thought of the potential disaster that is now only a week away. Next Wednesday the regular legislative session will end, only to have a second special second session begin 30 minutes after the gavel drops to end the regular session.
As of this moment, the deficit for the new fiscal year that begins on July first is right around six hundred million dollars. As the special session draws closer, the battle lines are already being drawn. As is the case in our instant age, the first salvos of this fight are being launched on social media.
The Louisiana GOP’s Twitter page has taken aim at Governor John Bel Edwards with the statement “We need a governor who runs on a ‘no new tax’ platform to keep his word,” which of course discounts the depths of the hole our state is in and that there are few options to get us out of this jam.
Edwards is trying to get out ahead of the upcoming fight. He did an interview with the editorial board of The Advocate where he talked about the coming special session calling it “a mess”. He also said legislators should not stall action until the final hours of the special session as they did earlier this year. He said “Can they wait? Yeah. Should they wait? No.”
The House and Senate each passed a budget during the regular session. The Senate’s version went further in cutting funding for the state’s Charity Hospital System, Higher Education, the TOPS program, which is factually a second cut to higher education, and other state funded programs. The two bills would have to be reconciled in committee, approved by both houses of the legislature, and then sent to the governor before next Wednesday to avoid the special session. I don’t see them compromising to the point of making a reconciled bill, and even if it got that far, I don’t think the governor would sign it.
To get to a point where everything gets funded everyone will need to back down a step, be willing to work together to make the best possible plan. That means the GOP legislators will need to stop attempting to pin all the problems on our current governor. It means that they need to take a hard look at the programs that are taking revenue away from the state.
It means our Democrat governor and his party members in the legislature need to also take it down a notch. The must be willing to look at areas where cuts can be made without having a completely detrimental effect on the programs that many is our state rely on.
The bottom line to our elected representatives in Baton Rouge is that instead of spending most of the two and a half weeks of this special session slinging mud at each other, talking about what you refuse to do, and wasting tax payer money because you’re playing a game, get the work started now.
Get the ball rolling. Gather a group of legislators you can work with, start working through what programs can be reduced, or cut and not be detrimental to the state or our citizens. Look at every tax credit, every special program that allows groups to pay a greatly reduced tax rate or nothing. Find the places where things can be tweaked to benefit the state coffers without destroying the state’s economy in the process.
I’m not sure if you see this, but this is something that bothers me. I may be a little sensitive to it being I am so close to graduating from The University of New Orleans, but our legislature is hitting higher education with a double whammy, but seem not to care what it will do to the future of this state.
The budget cuts to higher education by our state has been tremendous. It has caused issues, it has raised tuition, and it has effected the way schools are able to operate in our state. They are looking at doing it again when certain institutions have seriously considered bankruptcy protection because of the cuts to this point. The schools have been cut to bare bones already.
On top of the budget cuts to Higher Education funding, they are looking at both putting restrictions on, and underfunding the TOPS program. Reports state that over half of the student body at LSU rely on TOPS for their ability to go to school. I am sure other schools are at similar levels of TOPS students. If half of the already depleted number of students are now limited or unable to attend school because losing TOPS, what will that do to our schools that are already barely hanging on?
Talk to the people that represent you. Drop them an email, call them. The message must be a simple one. Fix the mess. Fix it Now. No more political pandering. No more giving the lobbyist what they want. Do what is best for the people of Louisiana.