Bi-partisan effort only way to solve looming budget crisis


A widely-publicized open letter from Gov. John Bel Edwards to House Speaker Taylor Barras set the stage for the kind of bipartisan efforts that will be needed to get Louisiana back on solid financial footing.
Fiscal chaos has reigned in Louisiana government for nearly a decade, and that instability has created a severely negative impact not just on state agencies and institutions but also on the private sector and the state’s overall economy.
Former governor Bobby Jindal inherited a $1 billion surplus and left a $2 billion shortfall eight years later even after slashing state budgets, programs and personnel and raiding reserves, restricted funds and other state savings accounts.
Edwards and some legislative leaders from both parties, especially in the Senate, have attempted in a flurry of regular and special sessions to address Louisiana’s devastating financial crisis. Those efforts have continually been blocked in the House
In the letter to the House Speaker, Edwards asks for options from House leaders on balancing the budget and for a commitment from movers and shakers in the House of Representatives to remove “partisan barriers” in fiscal deliberations.
The governor expressed concerns in the message to the speaker that the state will lose more than $1 billion in revenues on July 1 of 2018 when a one-cent sales tax and other temporary taxes that are keeping Louisiana momentarily afloat will expire.
Despite concerns about reaching that “fiscal cliff,” legislators have rejected proposals from Edwards for new revenues, curtailed tax breaks and other plans that would help restore fiscal stability to a state that is sinking in red ink.
The legislature failed in this year’s regular session to deal with the state’s impending crisis even though financial and tax issues can be resolved only in sessions during odd-numbered years.
Now a special session will be required to stop Louisiana from rolling over the fiscal cliff. Edwards told Barras that he would not call a special session costing $60,000 a day without assurances that bipartisan politics would not stymie efforts to fix the budget.
Opposition in the House has centered around opposition to new taxes and a desire for still more spending cuts. That is popular rhetoric, but it has not been accompanied by plans to adequately fund health care, infrastructure, higher education and other needs.
There must be some compromise and balance between new revenues and curtailed spending to get Louisiana government back on track financially. Edwards’ letter to Barras was a sensible first step in moving toward that goal.