Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards -- with special sesion on horizon -- eyes 'comprehensive tax reform' _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PAM BORDELON --- Gov. John Bel Edwards addresses the Public Affairs Research Council's annual luncheon in Baton Rouge on Friday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards wants legislators to get started on changing the state’s financial system when they gather again in the special session he plans to call for later this year.

“I’m going to work very hard to get a down payment on comprehensive tax reform,” Edwards told the annual luncheon meeting of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana .

State law forbids legislators from tackling tax issues in general sessions during even-numbered years.

Edwards called a 25-day special session earlier this year to tackle what he called the largest budget deficits in state history — closing most of a deficit of about $850 million in this year’s budget and part of a shortfall of about $2 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Lawmakers made spending cuts and raised more than $1 billion in taxes, leaving next year’s deficit at about $750 million.

On Tuesday, Edwards presented his plan for cutting government spending to close the rest of the deficit, which included less money for public hospitals and less funding for the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, which covers college tuition expenses for qualified students.

Edwards told the PAR luncheon that he hopes to raise enough money in a second special session, which would be called after the regular session adjourns June 6, to reverse those cuts.

He also wants to get started on revamping the way state government gathers and spends tax dollars. It’s a huge task that lawmakers can lean into during next general session, when tax matters are allowed to be debated.

But he wants to get started in the next special session.

“I have asked (LSU economist Jim Richardson) and his task force to give us some ideas we can pursue in June so that we don’t just raise the revenue we need to raise but we do it in a manner that is consistent with long-term comprehensive tax reform,” Edwards said during his eight-minute speech.

“We need more stability in Louisiana. We need predictability, and that’s how I intend to proceed.”

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