Legislative forecast: mutually assured destruction?_lowres

State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, right, talks with state Rep. John Bagneris, D-New Orleans, during Monday’s debate on the Louisiana House floor.

There was one genuine concern hanging over Tuesday morning’s meeting of the state Revenue Estimating Conference. It involved whether a recent drop in oil prices would undercut the good-news figures economists came up with before the newest data was in.

And there was one ongoing trend hanging over the meeting, too — a drift toward Washington-style partisan confrontation in venues that were once immune.

The two combined to send the meeting off the rails, to keep higher revenues for the current year from funding government programs, and to put newly forecast money for next year, which would likely go to teacher pay raises, in doubt.

One sign that things would be different this time around was the presence of House Appropriations Committee Chair Cameron Henry, who was there as a stand-in for House Speaker Taylor Barras, a Henry ally but a far less confrontational figure. He joined Senate President John Alario, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and LSU economist Jim Richardson on the four-person panel, which must vote unanimously to recognize revenue before it can be allocated.

After hearing some warnings about the oil price fluctuations, Henry said he’d be a no vote.

The move left several of his fellow panelists fuming.

Alario suggested he was trying to derail the teacher pay raise, which Henry insisted he supports. Gov. John Bel Edwards sent out a scathing press release.

“Today's good news was ignored by one member of the REC who chose to politicize this process,” it said. “In an unprecedented political ploy, Chairman Henry objected to adopting the forecasts proposed by the economists.”

In the meantime, things will be on hold until the REC gets together to try again — with Barras there in person, the governor’s forces insist.

And as Louisiana prepares to enter a contentious election year, the drift toward more permanent partisanship will clearly continue.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.