Gov. John Bel Edwards presents the executive budget for the upcoming fiscal year to lawmakers this morning.
"The budget proposal will be in balance," Edwards states. "It will be premised upon give-or-take a billion dollars less next year than this year. And those cuts are horrific."
With more than a billion dollars in so-called “temporary taxes” expiring June 30, this proposal — called "the doomsday budget" by capitol insiders — is expected to include at least an 80 percent cut to TOPS, as well as cutback for the public-private partnership hospitals
“You’re only shocked if you weren’t paying attention two years ago, because we’re right back to where we were then,” the governor says, referring to the depth of cuts necessitated by the revenue drop-off. “But I suspect that there are some folks with short-term memory loss.”
When I spoke with the governor Friday afternoon, he had just come from meeting with House leadership. Although he tried to be his usual optimistic self, his frustration came through, loud and clear.
"We had a very pleasant conversation," he said of the earlier meeting. "There was a shared sense that this needs to be done, and it needs to be done in February. But, you know, they didn’t put a plan on the table, so I don’t know how we get there if they don’t negotiate."
Because many state officials will be in D.C. this week for Washington Mardi Gras, the governor says he doesn’t expect today’s budget reveal to prompt any sort of immediate change of heart from House leadership.
"This is all going to boil down to – I suspect – whether we can get it done on the week starting Jan. 29.”
If the impasse continues past the window for calling a special session prior to the regular session — which begins at noon March 12 — Edwards says he’ll considering delivering a televised address to Louisiana’s citizens, as he did two years ago.
"That may be in order, because I need to explain to people why there won’t be a a budget passed, whey there won’t be a capital outlay bill passed, and why we’re about to see a really nasty, non-productive regular session that just didn’t have to be that way."