Assistant Professor discusses Louisiana’s special session that resumed Wednesday night
February 24, 2017
Q: Who decides if there is a need to call for a special session of the legislative?
A: It is in the constitution that if there is a budget deficit or a short fall, it has to be addressed. The legislators can call the special session, but typically the governor is the one who calls it. Once in session, they have a limited time of ten days to come up with a solution to fix the budget.
Q: What is being discussed in this session?
A: What they are talking about this time is to fix the budget shortfall of this current fiscal year that ends in June. The one they are addressing now is the budget they made last year, because the revenues they got so far this year were less then what they expected. And that’s why there is a short fall.
Q: Will Louisiana see any tax increase after the session ends?
A: Lawmakers are trying to find out how they can make up that $304 million that they are short. The alternatives are to either cut programs or to find a way of raising revenue. However, as part of the groundwork for this session, no new taxes will be imposed. So, it is a question of spending less than you planned to.
Q: What is the plan then?
A: Louisiana has the Rainy Day Fund, which is an emergency fund, meant for unexpected catastrophic events. The governor plan is to use this fund to cover one third of the current shortfall, which would mean cutting less program and other services.
Q: What is the rule for taping this fund?
Two thirds of both the House and the Senate have to vote in favor, so the state government can use it. That is not something the governor can decide alone. He can make cuts to certain things without the legislators, but he can’t tap into the Rainy Day fund without then.
Q: Why are they debating weather to use it or not?
A: There are very conservative republicans in the House that are reluctant to use this emergency fund. Instead they would rather make more cuts. On the other hand, the Senate and the governor are more in line with using the fund. It is basically a negotiation between them about how much of that fund they would be confortable to use.
Q: Why does the governor feel its fair to use the fund?
A: The governor’s argument is that the state is in the hook for something like $200 million in expenses because we had the historic floods in Baton Rouge last year and the tornados that just happened in the state. And that’s what would make it justifiable to tap into that money.