As the harsh feelings from 2017 sessions of the Louisiana Legislature recede, state Rep. Gene Reynolds, chief of the House Democratic members, said Wednesday he’s not going to step down after all.
In fact, Reynolds is hoping he and House Republican leader Rep. Lance Harris can put together a detente meeting with representatives from both parties late this summer or early fall to see on which of the fiscal issues battling partisans can agree.
“We’ve got to come together. We can’t just keep doing the stalemate stuff. We’ve got to come together with a coalition from both parties to get things passed for tax reform,” Reynolds, of Minden.
Buffeted by bitter, back-to-back legislative sessions trying to pass a state budget, Reynolds announced in early June that he’d had enough and was leaving. But he never put it in writing, as the rules require.
“When you’re in the middle of all the fussing and fighting, that place gets to wear on your nerves. But when you step away from it,” Reynolds said, “you have clearer view of what we have to do. And what we have to do is come together with the other group and get some things passed.”
Since June a number of legislators, from both parties, asked Reynolds to reconsider his resignation with a promise to seek a better place to debate how to solve the state’s longtime financial problems.
Harris told The Advocate on Wednesday he’s looking forward to a meeting. “It’s something we have spoken about at length,” said Harris, of Alexandria.
In the bitter battle over Louisiana's budget and taxes, Republicans who control the House ar…
Legislators arrived in April with boasts of revamping a system that fails to raise enough revenues to cover services and gives away billions in tax breaks, often with little return on the investment. But Democrats and Republicans were bogged down in often angry fights over how much to cut government services that have already seen repeated cuts to better match expected revenues.
Unable to pass a budget in the allotted time, a group of more moderate House Republicans joined with Democratic representatives on the ninth day of special session to finally approve a $28 million spending plan for the fiscal year that began Saturday.
Louisiana lawmakers wrapped up their fourth special session in less than two years on Friday…
But lawmakers also shot down most efforts to raise revenues by trimming exemptions or raising taxes that would address next year's “fiscal cliff.”
A frustrated Gov. John Bel Edwards said he wouldn’t call a special session before the regular 2018 legislative session convenes on March 12 until he was "reasonably sure" it too wouldn’t have the "the same failure of leadership. Why would I call one?" State law limits tax debates in odd numbered years; otherwise, a special session is needed.
It was no, no, no, no. It was no, again and again.
The fiscal cliff is what legislators call an expected $1.2 billion deficit that will suddenly materialize on July 1, 2018, when temporary taxes approved by lawmakers in 2016 — principally a penny increase in the state sales tax — will vanish. At $1.2 billion, the deficit amounts to about 15 percent of the $9.5 billion the state contributes to the $28 billion. The rest comes from federal funds and other sources. Because much of those revenues are tied up legally, the Legislature can use only about $3 billion to balance the budget each year.
State legislators finally departed Baton Rouge on Friday.
Democrats and the Republican majority have different philosophies about how to best get the state back on surer financial footing. Neither Reynolds nor Harris think negotiations will be easy. But both say there are ideas on which both sides could agree and that could serve as a foundation for a wider compromise.
The ascension of state Rep. Reid Falconer, R-Mandeville, to the House Appropriations Committee gave Reynolds hope. Falconer replaces Republican John Schroder, of Covington, who resigned the House to focus on his campaign for state treasurer in the October election.
State Rep. Reid Falconer is taking the place of another St. Tammany lawmaker and fellow Repu…
Though Falconer is just as conservative, Reynolds said Schroder was unyielding.
“In my dealings with Reid, you could sit down with him, show him the facts and talk to him. He’s always open to different viewpoints,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds argues that most of the possible solutions to the state’s financial problems, proposed by both Democrats and Republicans, were killed in Appropriations and the House Ways and Means Committee, where tax issues must start. Both money panels are overstocked with über-conservatives who don’t always reflect the chamber’s overall point of view, he contends. He sought, and House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, agreed to leaven committee memberships with more moderates where possible.
“I can’t blame someone down there for voting ‘no’ when they get a bunch of phone calls from home pleading with them,” Reynolds said. “We need to educate our constituents about what the facts really are and what the reality really is, that we can agree on.”