Gov. John Bel Edwards will get a few more days to put the finishing touches on his spending plan for the coming year, which is expected to include deep cuts to higher education and health care because of the state's looming $1 billion shortfall.
Edwards' executive budget presentation has been pushed back from Friday to Monday, due to freezing weather conditions that have shut down state government this week and prompted an emergency declaration.
Edwards has spent the past several weeks sounding the alarm over the budget plan, which must be balanced under state law. Higher education, including the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarships, and health care, including safety-net hospitals, are particularly vulnerable and will likely see deep cuts to their proposed spending because cuts are largely restricted to those areas.
Edwards' budget unveiling is just the first step in what is likely to be a long, acrimonious process. Ultimately, the state Legislature must pass a budget during its regular legislative session that begins March 12.
Edwards, a Democrat, has called on lawmakers to agree to new revenue measures to stave off or reduce the size of cuts. His executive budget recommendation is expected to include a separate list of proposals for where additional funding is needed, if the Legislature agrees to raise revenue through tax hikes or tax credit reductions.
The unexpected weather delay gives Edwards another opportunity to meet with House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, to try to negotiate plans replacing about $1 billion in temporary tax measures that are set to expire June 30, creating the funding shortfall.
Edwards deputy chief of staff Richard Carbo said the two are scheduled to meet for further discussions on Friday.
Edwards, who has frequently been at odds with House Republican leaders over the state's finances, has said he will only call a February special session if he believes that there is room for consensus to shore up the budget.
So far, there has been little obvious movement. Both sides want more details from the other and have loudly complained about not getting information they want from the opposing side.
Lawmakers cannot take up most tax measures during the regular session that begins March 12, prompting the need for a special session if they want to address any of the shortfall without deep cuts to state programs and services.