Two weeks into the regular legislative session, lawmakers continue to hear concerns from various departments over next year’s budget, like being unable to afford to house state inmates, or pay for Louisiana’s safety-net hospitals.
And now, state construction projects. The Governor released his proposed Capital Outlay budget this week.
"We indicated all along that if we’re unsuccessful in addressing the cliff, that will have implications, not just for the operating budget, but also with respect for capitol construction,” explained Gov. John Bel Edwards.
As the bill stands now, no new infrastructure projects are being funded.
Edwards describes it as "an austere, bare-bones Capital Outlay bill that we hope in a second special session we’ll be able to augment with more programs.”
Addressing the fiscal cliff remains the Governor’s primary focus. At a press conference Thursday, he suggested lawmakers should begin laying the groundwork for another special session in May.
He says that work should start now, "looking at ways to address the cliff so we can build consensus around that and be successful in short order once we get to the second special session.”
That consensus has been lacking recently. While some blame partisanship, others blame legislative red tape. Dedicated funds in the state’s constitution limit lawmakers flexibility when making budget cuts. So the Legislature is considering bills that would let them rewrite parts of the constitution. But Edwards says that won’t fix the immediate problem.
“What I’m primarily interested in is fixing the cliff," he said, "and the more we talk about a constitutional convention, the less time, attention and energy we put towards fixing the cliff."
Edwards continues to push lawmakers to address the cliff by raising revenue. But for now, they’re eyeing a budget with massive cuts.