Edwards calls special session to raise taxes
BATON ROUGE - State lawmakers will start debating a tax hike next week with Governor John Bel Edwards calling a special legislative session Friday to tackle Louisiana's budget crisis.
Lawmakers will go into the special session on Sunday, Feb. 14 and will remain in session until Mar. 9. Edwards has allowed lawmakers to debate tax hikes and government cuts.
To tackle the budget crisis Governor Edwards will allow:
- a one cent increase to the state sales tax
- tapping Louisiana's rainy day fund
- using non-coastal funds from the BP oil spill settlement
- modifying personal income tax brackets
- raising cigarette and alcohol tax
- cutting state government agencies
- cutting some state services not protected by the constitution
The state faces two deficits:
- $700 million mid-year shortfall for the current fiscal year
- $1.9 billion shortfall for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016
The current year's deficit has state colleges and health care in danger of drastic cuts. If money is not raised, then a number of "doomsday" scenarios would occur, including:
- reducing the size of LSU's student body and eliminating teaching positions
- canceling summer school at Southern University
- kicking thousands of disabled children and adults off medical assistance.
For next year's $1.9 billion shortfall, Edwards has said he wants lawmakers to raise almost the entire amount through tax increases. Many Republicans have scoffed at the idea wanting Edwards to compromise with government cuts.
The Republicans Legislative Delegation has not released a specific plan for cutting government, but they have said they would like to reduce spending for Medicaid, state employee pensions/health care, and prisons.