JohnBelEdwards

Gov. John Bel Edwards unveils his tax and budget proposals on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, for the coming legislative session.

Advocate staff photo by Travis Spradling

Gov. John Bel Edwards has called a special session to begin shortly after the Louisiana Legislature's current session ends to give legislators more time to hash out final negotiations over the state budget and construction spending.

Edwards deemed the call "precautionary" as the Legislature enters the final week of its regular session.

"Given the significant disagreements on the state’s operating budget, I am issuing this call as a precautionary measure," Edwards said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Should we come to an agreement on the operating and construction budgets, this special session will not be necessary. However, the budget in its current form is a nonstarter, therefore, the additional time could be necessary. The work before us for the next week is critically important, and I’m asking members of the legislature to work with me to adopt a responsible budget that adequately funds the state’s priorities."

The special session will begin 30 minutes after the regular session ends. It must end June 19 or earlier.

Lawmakers can only take up items within Edwards' special session call. He has limited it to the state's operating budget and construction spending. Another special session, dealing with the state's finances when a temporary sales tax hike ends next year will likely come before the next regular session begins in March 2018.

Edwards, a Democrat, has previously called three other special sessions, all dealing with the state's fiscal issues. Lawmakers have been engaged in a 60-day special session that ends June 8, but the Senate and House have yet to work out a final budget agreement, and House Democrats blocked a key spending bill when it came up on the floor last week to try to force Republican leaders into negotiations on the budget.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected on Thursday to take up HB1, sending it to the full chamber for vetting over the weekend.

House Republicans want to set aside about 2.5 percent of the budget – roughly $206 million – in case the state faces another mid-year deficit. To do so would require cuts elsewhere in the budget. Much of the cuts, as outlined in the House version of the budget plan, fall to the Louisiana Department of Health. Services in the Division of Children and Family Services, veterans affairs and prisons also would be cut.

The Senate Finance Committee has spent the past several days hearing from various stakeholders about the possible threat of cuts.

Edwards called the House plan a "non-starter" and said he would veto the budget if it comes out looking like the plan approved by the GOP-controlled chamber.

Edwards had called on lawmakers to approve budget and revenue measures this session, but the tax proposals, in particular, gained little traction.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.