Gov. John Bel Edwards has called legislators into a special session starting Monday to address the state's looming budget crisis. Come July 1, Louisiana is set to lose more than a billion dollars in revenue.
Barry Erwin is President of the nonpartisan public policy group Council for a Better Louisiana. He says he's optimistic the Legislature will find a solution to the revenue problem, at least for now. However, he's "less optimistic that what they pass will be either permanent or really resemble much in the way of tax reform."
Instead, Erwin is expecting a mix of solutions — some permanent and some temporary — that will get the state through this current budget crisis. "Probably not permanently," he warns, "but it will probably get us over the hump. And then we'll have another hump."
Faced with a budget shortfall in 2016, Legislators ended up passing a handful of tax measures, like raising the state sales tax by one penny. But those tax increases expire in about four months, creating the current budget problem — what's referred to as the fiscal cliff.
Leaders in the House argue the state needs to take a harder look at how much money is being spent. Erwin says that could be one piece to solving the fiscal puzzle.
"Of course," Erwin says, "the other fight I think is going to be over how much do we raise."
Gov. Edwards wanted an agreement with legislators on how to replace most of the billion dollars before calling a special session. But Erwin says that probably hasn't happened with the House.
“It was probably unrealistic to think that with 105 members in the House that they were going to have a deal set in place going into it," he explains.
Legislators will have from Feb. 19 until March 7 to try and find a solution.