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The Latest: Gov. Edwards says he’s ‘flexible’ on tax plan

February 19, 2018

Rep. Jean-Paul Coussan, R-Lafayette, left, speaks with Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, on the opening day of the special legislative session on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Latest on Louisiana’s special legislative session (all times local):

5:35 p.m.

Louisiana’s governor spent little of his special session speech focused on the type of taxes he wants passed to close a $1 billion budget gap.

Gov. John Bel Edwards told lawmakers Monday he’s “flexible” about what taxes are used to replace temporary taxes that expire on July 1. He says his “number one goal” is enacting a permanent, stabilizing tax structure that ends Louisiana’s cycles of budget woes.

Edwards has proposed raising or maintaining higher taxes on businesses and middle- and upper-income earners.

It’s unclear if he can reach a deal with the Legislature, with some Republicans opposed to taxes entirely and others at odds with Democrats over tax types they’ll support.

Some Republicans suggest partial renewal of the expiring 1 percent sales tax. Democrats are resistant to that idea.

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5:10 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards told lawmakers if they work together to stabilize Louisiana’s finances, he’s hopeful this could be the last special session he calls during the current term.

Edwards spoke Monday to the House and Senate as they opened their fifth special session since the Democratic governor took office in 2016.

He is asking the majority-Republican Legislature to close a $1 billion budget gap caused by expiring taxes, by passing replacement taxes. Without the money, Edwards says cuts would damage education, health and public safety programs in the budget year that begins July 1.

The governor says timing is critical and lawmakers shouldn’t wait until later this year to make decisions. He says that would leave students, families and businesses in limbo, unaware of what programs will be available.

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4:10 p.m.

Louisiana’s lawmakers have opened their latest special session, called by Gov. John Bel Edwards to close a $1 billion budget gap caused by expiring temporary taxes.

The House and Senate gaveled in Monday afternoon for their fifth special session in two years, all of them dealing with budget uncertainty in Louisiana.

The Democratic governor wants lawmakers to replace expiring taxes to avoid deep cuts to education, health care and public safety programs in the financial year that begins July 1.

More than $1.3 billion in taxes are expiring, but rising revenue from other tax types reduced the shortfall’s size. Edwards wants lawmakers to offset about $1 billion with tax revenue.

It’s unclear if he can reach a deal with enough House Republicans for a tax package to pass.

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3 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is bringing guests to the special session who receive aid from programs that could be on the chopping block if lawmakers don’t pass taxes to close a $1 billion budget gap.

The Democratic governor is speaking Monday evening to the House and Senate as they gather for their latest special session centered on Louisiana’s financial uncertainty.

In the audience during his speech will be a freshman at Southeastern Louisiana University who uses the TOPS college tuition program; the executive director of the Arc of Louisiana, an organization that provides assistance to people with developmental disabilities; and a 10-year-old girl with disabilities whose family relies on a state aid program.

Edwards says their programs are at risk of budget cuts if the majority-Republican Legislature doesn’t agree to replace expiring temporary taxes.

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6 a.m.

Louisiana lawmakers are still struggling to agree on an approach to stabilizing state finances a decade into seesawing cycles of repeated budget gaps and short-term fixes.

They open their latest special session Monday. It’s their fifth special session called by Gov. John Bel Edwards to address budget uncertainty in two years.

The session begins at 4 p.m.

The Republican-led Legislature and the Democratic governor are staring down a $1 billion budget hole that hits July 1, caused by the looming expiration of temporary sales taxes.

Edwards wants the expiring taxes replaced with other taxes, saying without the revenue, Louisiana will be forced to make damaging cuts to education, health care and public safety programs.

It’s unclear if he can reach a deal with enough GOP lawmakers for taxes to pass.

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