With Time Running Out, Legislature Still Searching For Compromise

Mar 2, 2018

After the House failed to pass a major tax bill Wednesday night, the future of the special session appeared shaky. But there was some progress in getting negotiations going again Thursday. 

Speaker of the House Taylor Barras says the one bill keeping the talks alive is the same one that died on the House floor Wednesday night.  It maintains a portion of a temporary sales tax increase.

Representatives gather on the House floor Thursday while tax negotiations continued behind the scenes.
Credit Wallis Watkins

"That bill, members, is the core to this debate and the core to the dollars that are important to solving as much of this deficit as we can," he told representatives.

It would take seventy votes, but technically, the bill can be brought back up for debate.

So far, the House hasn’t sent a single revenue bill over to the Senate. Senate President John Alario is disappointed by the inaction in the House. He says his chamber is ready to get to work.

“It seems to be an attitude amongst the Senate to solve the problem. But we’ve got to have some instruments for that to happen," he explained.

If the Legislature can't come to an agreement on how to replace the billion dollar shortfall, they'll have to cut that amount of money from next year's budget.

"Education won’t be funded where it needs to be," he warned, "TOPS won’t be funded where it needs to be, health care will certainly fall way short. Maybe when they get an eye on how bad it's gonna be, they might have a different attitude."

Alario says a budget with so many cuts may not have enough support to pass in the regular session. And bills to raise revenue can’t be considered at that time, which would likely lead to another special session in June.

In the meantime, they’re still searching for a compromise.

"The Governor asked both sides to get in a room, try to work it out, don’t come out until you get something done," said Alario.

To give the Senate enough time to work on legislation, the House would have to pass a bill Friday. The session has to end no later than Wednesday.