Louisiana’s Second Special Session of 2018 ended at midnight on June 4 without agreement on how much revenue the state needs for the new budget year that begins July 1.
The main purpose of the session was to address a looming fiscal cliff, estimated at $648 million, as certain temporary taxes, including a fifth penny of state sales tax, are set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year.
Amid frustration at the lack of an immediate solution to #FixTheCliff, there were some silver linings. For example:
Legislation to create Louisiana Checkbook, a new statewide fiscal transparency website, finally passed, with Sen. Rick Ward’s SB 13
Full funding for Lafayette’s University Hospital & Clinics (UHC) was protected, along with Louisiana’s other public-private healthcare partnerships
But other key priorities like higher education didn’t fare as well. Without additional revenue, higher education would take a $96 million budget cut, and the TOPS scholarship program would be cut by $88 million (a shortfall of 30%). As Dr. Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System, put it, the current budget would default “on the promise of TOPS” and hit a higher education budget “already ranked last in the nation in per-student funding.”
While the Legislature must find a way to fund these immediate budget priorities, like higher education, we cannot forget about Louisiana’s significant backlog of transportation infrastructure needs. We commend Sen. Page Cortez’s leadership in reminding legislators that, going forward, we must strengthen Louisiana’s investment in infrastructure priorities like I-49 South in order to compete economically.
Preview: Third Special Session
Will the third time be a charm? We’ll find out, as legislators return to the Capitol from June 18 to June 27 for the Third Special Session of 2018.
The scope for this session, as defined by the Governor’s call, will be more narrow, focusing on how much of the expiring “clean penny” to renew and how much of the remaining four pennies of state sales tax to “clean” (remove certain exemptions from).