The state of Louisiana is facing a $304 million budget shortfall, and Gov. John Bel Edwards told a legislative committee last week the cuts will be “deep and painful.”
Edwards says he will call a 10-day Special Session beginning February 13, although some legislators contend a Special Session is not necessary.
The Democratic governor is butting heads with some Republican legislators on another issue. Edwards wants to tap the Rainy Day Fund to the tune of $119.4 million to address the deficit.
Edwards said that any plan that does not make use of the Rainy Day Fund would be catastrophic to the vast majority of people in Louisiana.
House GOP Chairman Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, is opposed to the Special Session and presented his own plan that would not use the Rainy Day Fund and would spare higher education, while cutting nearly $30 million from the state’s Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) that allocates state dollars to public classrooms.
Edwards said he draws the line at cuts to the MFP, noting it has never been done before. The Administration officials responded by saying Harris’ cuts would close all the safety net hospitals and put almost 5,000 prisoners on the street, among other doomsday scenarios.
The Governor’s plan does not include tax increases or cuts to K-12 education, the Department of Corrections, or the Department of Children and Family Services.
The cuts would include a wide range of areas including the Department of Health, the Legislature, the Judiciary, and statewide elected officials.
Ban on becoming a lobbyist
President Donald Trump is imposing a lifetime ban on administration officials lobbying for foreign governments and a five-year ban for other lobbying.
Trump used his executive authority this past Saturday to put the bans in place, but it’s not clear how they’d be enforced. He said it was part of his pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Trump said that those who work for him should focus on the job they’ll be doing for the American people and not on future income earned by peddling their influence after serving in government.
The ban just affects persons in Trump’s administration and has no affect on members of Congress.
There are more than 12,500 lobbyists registered in Washington, D.C.. In 1974, just 3% of retiring or defeated members of Congress became lobbyists. Today, 50% of retiring or defeated senators become lobbyists and 42% of House members.
House members are barred from lobbying Congress for a year after they leave office. Senators face a two-year ban. Ex-lawmakers still can lobby the executive branch and provide behind-the-scenes advice to companies and other organizations trying to influence federal legislation. They can also lobby state and local officials.
Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.