Since special sessions cost $60,000 a day, Tuesday's timeout at the Louisiana Legislature was an expensive break.
It was caused by a breakdown in negotiations over the tax plans that have been circulating around the State Capitol for more than a year — in fact, for longer than that.
Compromise is now a dirty word, particularly in the balky caucus of the House Republicans. That's been the biggest obstacle to progress — even more than whatever errors Gov. John Bel Edwards might have made in the process.
It's past time to strike a deal, although the intransigence of lawmakers over the past two years doesn't inspire confidence that sanity at the Capitol will prevail.
The state's faulty tax structure is the root of many problems, including chronic budget instability that has hurt every state institution, serving families rich and poor, all across Louisiana.
Businesses of all sizes are profoundly affected by uncertainty in government. It's past time to end the cycle of political posturing and "temporary" taxes.
The Legislature itself commissioned a plan to remake the tax structure but lawmakers, particularly in the House but also in the Senate, have been reluctant to take the political risks in adopting the recommendations, called the HCR11 proposals after the legislation creating the original task force.
The regular session of the Legislature cannot take up most revenue bills, so raising taxes to replace the unwise "temporary" sales tax of 2016 must be restricted to the special session.
Timing is crucial here: Failure to replace the "fiscal cliff" revenues, principally the expiring sales tax, will make building a new budget almost impossible in the regular session. Legislators will not have a realistic set of numbers to work from.
Further, the most anti-tax members in key House committees have also been the most reluctant to come up with budget cuts of any size. A billion-dollar-plus problem is beyond their mathematical skills, although they can casually burn $60,000 on their timeout day without blushing.
The participants in the farce we call the Louisiana Legislature already know all this. But talk-radio commentary is no substitute for data-driven legislation. No one should be in favor of even a short-term extension of the "temporary" sales tax, but that might be part of any final compromise. The impact of sales taxes should be minimized, as the experts suggested in the HCR11 report, with reasonable increases in the income tax.
Shame on lawmakers who fail to do better, because the options are there. Those who vote "no" on everything are bringing the legislative bodies into greater disrepute, and failing to address the critical problem facing state government today.