Back in session: Higher education, healthcare could face cuts
BATON ROUGE - The new legislative session began today, and Governor John Bel Edwards delivered grim news to lawmakers regarding the state budget in his opening address.
Lawmakers didn't raise enough money in the special session to keep critical services from being cut. Under state law, they can't raise taxes during the regular session, so they'll be forced to make some painful decisions. Healthcare, higher education, schools and prisons are all on the chopping block again.
"As we begin this regular session, let's get back on track," Gov. Edwards says. "Let's make the most of the time we have to improve the state."
Edwards spoke with reporters following his speech. He said another special session is likely and believes lawmakers will be more willing to raise taxes after they see the level of cuts on the way.
"Quite frankly, there won't be any options on the table in another special session that will be more appetizing than the first special session," Gov. Edwards surmises.
House republicans blocked many of the tax hikes in the recent special session. Their leaders, Rep. Lance Harris says taxes aren't the answer.
"Am I ever good with raising taxes? No I don't like raising taxes," he told News 2's Mark Armstrong. "I want better alternatives."
The governor has consistently challenged lawmakers to offer specific cuts if they can't stomach taxes. Harris says he can think of a few.
"We could spend up to $180 million/year on film tax credits and yet we're being asked to reduce TOPS."
The regular session ends in June. Lawmakers have until then to decide what gets cut next year.
Cuts for the mid-year budget could be announced as soon as next week. Those could also impact higher education and healthcare.