A bipartisan slate of State Senators is urging Gov. John Bel Edwards to call the state Legislature into a special session this month to address a looming $1 billion budget shortfall before the March 12 start of this year's regular session.
"There is not a single option that will be available in June that is not available to the Legislature now," the group wrote in a letter to Edwards on Monday. "The state gains nothing and only loses by waiting."
Louisiana leaders ended another week Friday without a firm agreement on addressing the state's nearly $1 billion fiscal cliff.
Louisiana leaders on Tuesday came one step closer to finding common ground in tense ongoing negotiations about how to address the state's loom…
Edwards, a Democrat, has said he won't call the Legislature into a special session unless he can reach an agreement with House Republican leaders on the approach that will be taken to shoring up the state's finances when temporary tax measures expire July 1.
He has said he wants to call a special session to begin Feb. 15, after Mardi Gras festivities. State law requires that special sessions be called seven days in advance, putting that required notice period this week. Lawmakers cannot take up most revenue-generating measures during the regular session in even-numbered years.
"Without the Legislature having that opportunity prior to the 2018 regular session, many citizens of our state will be unable to adequately plan for their future," the senators wrote in their letter to Edwards. "Surely Louisiana deserves better than that."
The letter was signed by 11 Republicans, including Senate President John Alario, of Westwego, and three Democats, including Senate Finance Chair Eric LaFleur, of Ville Platte. Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, was the primary organizer behind the letter.
Edwards was expected to meet again with House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, on Monday to continue budget discussions.
"Gov. Edwards agrees with the senate – we need a special session in February," Edwards deputy chief of staff Richard Carbo said. "We’re confident that a majority of House members agree as well. The reality is that a small group of House members have routinely blocked any effort for reform, while at the same time refusing to offer solutions of their own. There is an opportunity to make historic reforms that benefit the citizens of Louisiana who deserve meaningful progress; not political games."
He said that Edwards continues to seek more information from Barras on how the House wants to approach the shortfall.
"As soon as Gov. Edwards receives a proposal from the speaker, the negotiations with the full Legislature can begin," Carbo said. "Gov. Edwards can’t negotiate with himself, and it’s critically important for the House to come to the table with ideas."