On Friday, Democrats and Republicans alike on the Senate Finance Committee, validated what Gov. John Bel Edwards has been saying regarding the magnitude of our current budget crisis. The $648 million fiscal cliff would impose catastrophic, unnecessary cuts to services that the people of Louisiana consider to be priorities. The Senate Finance Committee did its best to soften the blow of deep budget cuts, but as members acknowledged, without renewing revenue that is expiring, we cannot meet the needs of our state.
Gov. Edwards has proposed a plan to address the fiscal cliff that would result in the reduction of the state sales tax, an overall tax cut of $400 million on the people of Louisiana, and includes spending cuts of more than $120 million. The plan would fully fund critical priorities that remain unfunded from House and Senate budget proposals, such as health care services for seniors and those with disabilities, TOPS and Go Grants, higher education, partner hospitals, and medical schools in Shreveport and Monroe.
Below are excerpts from Republicans and Democrats during the Senate Finance Committee meeting on Friday:
Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte): “We can’t fix the problem until we have a special session.”
Sen. Conrad Appel (R- Metairie): “That’s right”
Sen. LaFleur: “Until we raise sufficient revenue, until we reconcile our priorities with our revenue stream.”
Sen. Appel: “Correct”
Sen. LaFleur: “And that’s what we would do in a special session.”
Sen. Appel: I just don’t want it to get out that we are suggesting, in any way shape or form that we realistically think that we can cut 25 percent of all these departments of Government. This is just a step along the process. And that’s all I’m saying.”
Sen. LaFleur: And in essence a way to demonstrate how big the problem is.
Sen. Appel: “Yeah I agree.”
Sen Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles): “We all know that this is just not sustainable, there is no way that we can ask any agency to take a 25 percent cut, it just doesn’t work. . . . Hopefully, this will send a message to every member of the house and Senate that we have to raise some revenue.”
Sen. LaFleur: There is no expansion of government.
Sen. Johns: “Right. It’s really an easy fix, really an easy fix.”
Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell): “I think that we have done what is responsible in terms of passing a budget, and recognizing the need for some additional revenue.”