Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration said the tax-raising measures moving through the Capitol aren’t enough to solve the state’s fiscal problems and lawmakers should embrace more revenue bills to stave off deep cuts to state services.
“It doesn’t adequately fund TOPS, it doesn’t adequately fund our hospitals, it doesn’t adequately fund higher education,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said of the $220 million or so that the House signed off on this week.
The House Ways and Means Committee hasn’t approved several other bills the Democratic governor is pushing to bring in more money in the coming year.
Dardenne, during a briefing with reporters on Friday, said the goal is still to erase the entire $600 million shortfall in the budget that begins July 1 and that the outstanding bills remain crucial to the administration’s agenda. He said the administration is lobbying legislators to win support.
“We are focused on those bills still remaining in the House,” Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson said.
Otherwise, Edwards’ budget advisers said, the administration will begin forming a plan to slash services on July 1.
Legislators kicked off the special session focused largely on tax measures on Monday. It must end by June 23.
The House, which gets first crack at the tax-raising proposals before sending them to the Senate, left Thursday — taking a long weekend break from the Capitol.
If the budget gap isn’t filled by July 1, then areas at risk of cutbacks include the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, the state’s safety net hospitals for the poor, and colleges and universities.
“We are in the throes of a crisis,” Dardenne said. “It’s a crisis that has been known and described since day one.”
The state Legislature, during an earlier special session, raised about $1.2 billion in new revenue to put toward the state’s nearly $26 billion budget in the coming year.
Some have speculated the Legislature could come up short — approving less than the $600 million target when the special session ends.
“If the Legislature fails to raise revenue, then the cuts will come July 1,” Edwards’ Chief of Staff Ben Nevers said.