As the clock ticked toward the 6 p.m. end of the 2017 regular session, it appeared that a majority of the House was willing to support the budget compromise offered by the Senate. To assuage concerns by House leaders about a possible mid-year shortfall, the Senate added language that would have required state agencies to set aside $50 million for possible reductions. But House leaders, led by Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, balked at the deal and elected to run out the clock instead of allowing an up-or-down vote. Lack of agreement on the budget triggered an immediate special session. The AP’s star reporter, Melinda Deslatte, reports that frustration with House leadership was bipartisan.
Republican Rep. Kenny Havard and Democratic Rep. Major Thibaut, both of whom voted to consider the Senate budget proposal, in unison described the special session as “embarrassing” to the Legislature. Republican Rep. Julie Stokes said she was “disgusted.” … Senate President John Alario, a Republican, said he was disappointed at the meltdown. “My hope is that we complete our work in this special session. It’s too darn important for the people of this state. Education, health care, public safety: there are too many things that would get hurt if we didn’t come to a consensus and make it work,” Alario said.
House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger tried numerous procedural moves to bring the budget to a vote, ultimately to no avail. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue documented the drama that suggests there may have been support for the Senate’s budget.
On this third attempt, Leger got the exact number of votes he needed — 53 votes — to move toward a vote on the budget. Leger had the support of all the Democrats, 10 Republicans and two House members who don’t belong to a political party. That vote could indicate that 53 House members — the exact number needed for a budget to pass — may have supported the budget plan if it had been brought up for a vote.
Without a budget, lawmakers gaveled into special session thirty minutes after the regular session adjourned. House leadership decided to recess until Monday, instead of working through the weekend as preferred by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate President John Alario.
Senate health plan would decimate Medicaid expansion
Reports from Washington indicate that some “moderate” senators have a newfound openness to eliminating the Medicaid expansion, albeit in a delayed fashion. Of course, knowing their health coverage will be stripped away in 2023 or 2024, instead of 2020, is little comfort to the hundreds of thousands of Louisianans receiving care through the expansion. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Aviva Aron-Dine has more:
Just last week, new polling found that the Medicaid expansion is extremely popular, with its popularity crossing party lines. Eighty-four percent of the public, including 71 percent of Republicans, support continuing current federal funding for the expansion. The expansion’s overwhelming popularity may be part of the reason that a number of Senate Republicans say they want to find a way to maintain the gains from expansion in their states. But the deal some Senators appear ready to accept would not only reverse those gains over the longer run, it wouldn’t even maintain them in the near term.
Kansas reverses failed tax cuts
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback sold his 2012 tax cut package as “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” Instead, they wreaked havoc on the state’s budget and ability to provide basic services like education and infrastructure. And this week, the state’s conservative legislature overrode a Brownback veto and reversed much of the tax cut. Louisiana’s situation mirrors Kansas’ in many ways. Large tax cuts in 2007 and 2008 are the main reason the state faces a deep structural structural budget deficit that cannot be fixed without a willingness to raise revenue. The New York Times’ Julie Bosman, Mitch Smith and Monica Davey have the details on Kansas’ reversal.
Fed up with gaping budget shortfalls, inadequate education funding and insufficient revenue, the Republican-controlled Legislature capped months of turmoil by overriding the governor’s veto of a bill that would undo some of his tax cuts and raise $1.2 billion over two years. The move amounted to a shocking rejection of the tax-cutting experiment Mr. Brownback had held up as the centerpiece of his conservative governing. But economic growth and revenues lagged, and even his allies began to publicly criticize the tax cuts. The results were a warning of the risks for other Republican-controlled states that have tested similar approaches, and a dizzying descent for Mr. Brownback’s legacy and any future political aspirations.
Though the Legislature is right back in a special session to deal with the budget, Thursday did mark the official end of the regular session. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte takes a step back with a helpful summary of what passed and what didn’t. She notes that criminal justice reform stands out as an accomplishment, while failure to reform the state’s broken tax structure was a significant failure.
No deal was reached on taxes, despite months of talk about how lawmakers would focus on a tax overhaul to stabilize Louisiana’s finances and address a looming $1 billion budget gap that hits in mid-2018 when temporary taxes expire. The House — where most tax measures must start — blocked anything that could be considered a tax hike and scrapped nearly every bill recommended by a task force offering a roadmap for reform efforts.
The lack of revenue raising measures ensures that the governor will call lawmakers back into another special session – in addition to the current one – to deal with the structural budget deficit for fiscal year 2019.
Number of the Day
$1.2 billion – Revenue raised by lawmakers in Kansas when the Republican-held Legislature overrode Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of legislation rolling back massive tax cuts enacted in 2012. (Source: NPR)