The Louisiana state Legislature is currently holding a special session in order to attempt to resolve the state’s budget crisis. Governor John Bel Edwards is the new, Democrat leader. He was elected to replace the financially irresponsible administration of Bobby Jindal.
Louisiana voters elected Gov. Edwards because his opponent, Senator David Vitter, was likely to be an extension of the Jindal administration that created the financial crisis. A local Louisiana new site, Bayou Buzz, attributes the budget crisis to the “gross fiscal mismanagement” of the Jindal administration, and to the “oil crisis.” Falling oil prices across the nation have left many workers unemployed. Gov. Edwards denounced the former Gov. Bobby Jindal on Saturday, calling him:
“The most irresponsible governor who has ever governed Louisiana.”
In January, shortly after his inauguration, Gov. Edwards presented his budget plan that included many tax hikes, and he started a campaign to educate Louisiana residents on what they stand to lose if a realistic budget plan is not passed: serious cuts to the states already fiscally unstable higher education and health care systems. In light of the financial crisis, many universities in the state have had to face hard decisions, such as possibly closing for weeks at a time in order to mitigate the lack of sufficient funding.
Gov. Edwards is “increasingly concerned” that the budget will not be resolved when the special legislative session ends on March 9. On Wednesday he held a closed session with Republican lawmakers to urge them into action on the budget crisis, but it seems that he left the session empty-handed, saying:
“With a week to go, we’re still far short of where we need to be, and I encouraged them to pick up the pace and give serious consideration to some instruments on the revenue side.”
The state is in a $900 million shortfall for this year, which must be resolved by June 30, and there is a $2 million gap in next year’s budget. The state’s credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service on February 25 due to the financial crisis. Any money that the state borrows in the future will be subject to higher interest ratings.
The state House of Representatives, where all tax initiatives must begin, is systematically blocking proposed tax raises, and making the tax raises that they pass unsavory before sending bills to the state Senate. The Louisiana state House is a composed of a majority of Republicans, many of whom belong to the radical right-wing Tea Party. The attitude of Louisiana House Republicans is “we can cut our way our of this.”
The Louisiana Legislature now has only six days to come up with a solution to the complex financial crisis.