There’s a great line in the movie “Tommy Boy” where Chris Farley breaks the door of David Spade’s car. Spade, unaware of this, opens the door, and it falls off, to which Farley asks, "What’d you do?" This scene perfectly illustrates Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' reaction to his epic fail of a special session.
Edwards described the special session that abruptly ended Monday void of any result as a “spectacular failure of leadership from House Republicans. "But the truth is, the failure of the special session belongs to Edwards and Edwards alone.
“Unfortunately because of some obstructionists in the House, the Legislature has failed those students, failed those parents, failed that single mom, and countless others across the state of Louisiana,” said Edwards.
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Matt Houston/LSU Manship School News Service
But it wasn’t only Republicans who blocked the governor’s tax bills; he couldn’t even get even get critical support from Democrats.
“His own party is the one that blocked the majority of things he wanted to get done,” said Republican state Rep. Cameron Henry, of Metairie.
The House Black Caucus, made up entirely of Democrats, killed two major tax bills that would have most likely passed with Republican support. The Black Caucus wouldn't vote for the tax bills because they included new Medicaid restrictions that the governor supported. For Edwards to be unaware he lacked the support of his own party is a major rookie mistake.
“Clearly, it was very premature to call this session. The governor did not have a clear plan on what he wanted to do, and surprisingly he didn’t have the support of his own party and the Democrats to get anything actually passed. It wound up being a colossal waste of taxpayer money," said Henry.
The governor was not just unprepared for the special session; he was also premature in calling it. Regular sessions are for evaluating spending and special sessions can be for raising new revenue. Holding a special session before a regular session is nonsense.
State bureaucrats are often insatiable with their budget increase requests. During the regular session, legislators can filter through that by requiring department heads to justify their spending increases with testimony in front of committees. Edwards would have to believe government is a fine-tuned machine with no waste, no redundancy, no unnecessary spending to want to raise taxes before legislators go through the budget process.
The special session's slow-moving collapse has come to an end at the Louisiana Capitol with the state no closer to bridging a looming budget g…
“When the governor started off, he said we have a $990 million dollar shortfall. A shortfall is defined in Baton Rouge as not giving an agency the money they would like to have. So agencies submit budgets, and if you don’t give them what they want, that’s considered a shortfall. Through the budget process, we will figure out what agencies need and not what they want,” said Henry.
"The definition of compromise is you are willing to accept some things you don't like in exchange for things that you do. That's what makes it hard," Edwards said.
It’s interesting to watch government-centric media types cry wolf over legislators' failure to raise taxes. There’s an “Oh the humanity” flavor to their coverage of the special session.
During the regular session, legislators will look for ways to cut spending and shrink the deficit caused by the one-cent sales tax expiring in June. It’s doubtful they’ll find enough cuts to close the gap completely, but hopefully, they’ll find some. Keep in mind Louisiana now spends $5 billion more than Gov. Bobby Jindal did with his final budget when you factor in federal dollars.
After the regular session, we’ll have another special session, but this time we’ll know how much money is needed to close the gap. It won’t be some made-up number from the governor. It’s a safe bet legislators will find a way to compromise on taxes in the upcoming special session because the only other option will be drastic cuts nobody wants.
Email Dan Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org.