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Gov. Edwards on fixing budget hole: 'I've got to have some plan'

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BATON ROUGE - The question of how the state will be making up a $1 billion budget gap this year still remains unanswered.

Governor John Bel Edwards is trying to avoid making huge cuts to the budget, but says the biggest issue right now is a lack of agreement between his proposals and state legislators.

"Saying no to everything and offering no alternatives is the biggest part of the problem,” the governor said in a Monday news conference at the Press Club of Baton Rouge. "I've got to have some plan that comes back from the legislature."

In July, a one-cent sales tax hike will expire, known as the "fiscal cliff", taking away $1.3 billion of revenue.

"Fixing the cliff doesn't require any new revenue next year, we just need to replace what is falling off of the books,”  Gov. Edwards said.

The governor says adjusting taxes can replace the depleting funds. He recommends bringing down excess itemized deductions from 100 to 50 percent, keeping the business utilities tax to four percent and the industrial utilities to two percent.

"The fact of the matter is getting a 2/3 vote on any of these options is very, very difficult without leadership,” Edwards said.

If lawmakers are not on board, the governor says major cuts will have to be made.

"It is not going to be pretty, It will not reflect a budget that I want to see implemented and in fact the cuts will be devastating."

The Governor says the cuts could include an upwards of $1 billion, mainly affecting health care and higher education.

"I don't want to implement any of those cuts," the governor added.

Edwards is meeting with the Louisiana House Speaker and other legislators Monday. The goal he says is to come up with a solution soon, so they can hold a special session in February to vote on a plan. But he says he will not hold a special session if they cannot come up with an agreement beforehand.

Governor Edwards also talked about other items he will be focusing on in 2018, including helping small businesses thrive in the state, increasing minimum wage and eliminating the gender pay gap.

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