Lawmakers react to special session

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The Louisiana Legislature’s revenue-focused special session is all but done, resulting in no resolution.

As of press time Monday, and barring a last-minute miracle, the special session called to fix $1 billion revenue gap from expiring tax revenue came up empty.

The House failed Sunday to agree on any revenue-raising measures. The most recent of many disagreements over two weeks came over the order of the votes on two bills that were essential to a compromise.

According to a report by LSU Manship School News Service, democrats said they had an agreement to vote first on House Bill 8 by Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, which would reduce the deductions that Louisianans can claim on their state taxes. Then GOP leaders decided to vote first on House Bill 23, by Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles, which would have extended a quarter of a penny increase in state sales tax until 2021.

Legislative Black Caucus members and other Democrats had opposed Dwight’s bill, saying it hurt impoverished residents, but they had agreed to vote for it if Leger’s bill was approved first to help balance the burden.

But when Leger asked to put his vote first, the House voted 45-58 against it. And despite impassioned requests to put his bill aside to allow a vote on Leger’s bill and keep the session from collapsing, Dwight refused and insisted on a vote that would eventually kill his bill.

The session doesn’t officially end until Wednesday, but many legislators and political analysts view Sunday’s results as the nail in the coffin of the session.

The Bossier-Press Tribune caught up with Bossier lawmakers Monday to get their reactions from the special session.

State Sen. Ryan Gatti, Dist. 36:

“We will continue to work on the budget until the final motions are made in the special session. I’ll fight hard to protect TOPS, K-12, higher education, BPCC and funding roads and bridges.

“After 790 days in office we are no closer to making our tax rules fair for families and small businesses. All bills to lower spending and lower taxes have not received enough votes. Our area is uniquely situated because cuts hurt more here than other areas. “

State Sen. Barrow Peacock, Dist. 37:

“This special legislative session has been a quagmire resulting in nothing meaningful being accomplished.  From the beginning, the call for the special session was very limited and misleading by requesting the need for more revenue/taxes than actually needed.  When considering the federal tax cut which will result in more revenue to the State of Louisiana, no decisions should be made to raise taxes until the Revenue Estimating Committee determines a more current level of revenue.  Our state government should make informed decisions, always focusing on the growth of our economy.  The revenue to the state is a result of the health of the economy in Louisiana.  We should not be raising unnecessary taxes which puts more pressure on businesses and their employees to relocate to other states.”

State Rep. Raymond Crews, Dist. 8:

“The State Seal of Louisiana contains three words ‘Union, Justice, Confidence.’ One of them is particularly appropriate to the current situation – Confidence.

“Time and again, tax and spend members of the legislature ignore that principle. They push for more revenue without first securing the confidence of the people that are to be the source of that revenue.

“On Sunday night, there was an opportunity for tax and spend members of the House. A bill that would have raised sales taxes slightly, after some fraud protection measures were put in place, was rejected. Those measures had been watered down in an attempt to make them more agreeable, but the bill was still rejected. Why? Because the same tax and spend members wanted more of your money – in the form of income tax.

“They simply decided it was all or nothing.

“The most conservative among us believe that raising any revenue at this time is premature. The economy has been improving, oil prices are up slightly, and there are opportunities to make cuts in spending that don’t endanger vital programs. And we held the line by voting against revenue raising bills.

So the special session, while unnecessary, did still serve a purpose – to show the resolve of the people against further tax increases without first restoring confidence.”

State Rep. Dodie Horton, Dist. 9:

“I am so thankful that we stood strong and we said no more. No revenue was raised in this special session. You can not raise taxes in a non-fiscal session, which is what we’re getting ready to go into.

“We’re starting out the session with about $500 million…but [Gov. Edwards] wanted us to raise $900 million. The Governor said he wanted all $900 plus million or nothing, even though we knew he didn’t need that much. The Governor wanted to put the burden back solely on the middle class because they are the most stable tax payers in the country. That’s just something I can’t live with. I didn’t leave my principles on the other side of the Mississippi River. I’m not going to let my district down and I’m so thankful they have my back.

“I don’t really see myself as a politician. I just see myself as someone that’s representing District 9’s heart, desires and hope for change. I’m going to do my best to not let them down.

“It’s complicated, but I want us to refine our system. As long as we continue to feed the beast, that will never happen. We want to give people hope for the future, but we have to live within our means as a state. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve District 9. The last thing I want to do is let them down.”

From Staff Reports