QUESTION
Why was it necessary to call another special session? Why hasn’t the governor fixed our budget problem yet?

ANSWER
Louisiana still has a $600 million budget deficit, down from more than $2 billion, for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016, largely due to the irresponsible budget practices of the previous administration. Without additional revenue to cover this shortfall, we cannot adequately fund critical programs that the vast majority of people in Louisiana consider to be priorities – like TOPS, hospitals, and K-12 education. This is unfinished business from the first special session, and we need to finish the job. 

QUESTION
How is the budget $2 billion larger than last year’s, but the state still doesn’t have enough money?

ANSWER
The previous administration simply chose not to include large expenses in last year’s budget in an attempt to make it artificially smaller. For instance, they only paid 11 – instead of the 12 – required monthly medical vendor payments, leaving 13 medical vendor payments to make in next year’s budget. In addition, the previous administration did not properly budget for the increase in the number of people who would use Medicaid – they ignored the increase for the first time ever since the Medicaid program began. To make matters worse, they did not account for expenses that they knew would come due for the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Corrections, and the Office of Juvenile Justice this past year. Beyond that, the previous administration also built last year’s budget on $800 million in one-time money, even though the expenses would be recurring in future years. Finally, the budget appears larger because new federal tax dollars are coming home to Louisiana because Gov. Edwards has expanded Medicaid, which means our state will now be receiving more federal money to cover health costs for the working poor of our state – while still saving more than $180 million in state dollars. 

QUESTION
Why hasn’t the governor fully funded TOPS? Does he intend to fully fund TOPS?

ANSWER
The governor wants – and intends – to fully fund TOPS. This will require the legislature to raise the revenue to fill the state’s remaining $600 million budget deficit. The governor has publicly committed that if the legislature raises a minimum of $450 million towards correcting the budget deficit, he will direct at least one-third of that new revenue to TOPS.

QUESTION
Is this just another opportunity for the governor to try to raise taxes on citizens? Why does the governor want to balance the budget on the backs of working citizens?

ANSWER
The governor does not want to raise taxes. In fact, it is the last thing he wants to do. However, he is committed to honest and straightforward budgeting that will adequately fund – in a sustained way – the state services the people of Louisiana believe are necessary and have come to rely upon, such as hospitals, TOPS, and K-12 education. This means creating balanced state budgets starting now and for future years to come. We can no longer rely on gimmicks, like continuously using one-time money for recurring expenses, from the previous administration. Those practices have threatened the long-term prosperity of our state and have resulted in two credit rating downgrades for the State of Louisiana. 

QUESTION
If the budget still isn’t fully funding health care, how can we afford to expand Medicaid?

ANSWER
Expanding Medicaid is part of the solution to our budget shortfall. Bringing our federal tax dollars back to provide health care to our citizens will allow Louisiana to cut state spending. In fact, Medicaid expansion will save the state $184 million in the first year alone, with additional savings in future years. Today, Louisiana covers about 40 percent of the costs for providing care to the uninsured, which is often provided in the emergency room due to a lack of access to preventative and/or primary care services. With Medicaid expansion, the number of uninsured Louisianans will drop dramatically. That means Louisiana will be able to reduce spending for uncompensated care and use new federal funds to increase patient access to primary care and clinics. In addition to bringing our federal tax dollars back home, it is guaranteed that we will never have to pay for more than 10 percent of the costs for Medicaid expansion. It is a win-win for residents and the state's budget.

QUESTION
How does the governor plan to close the budget gap and reform our budgeting practices so we won’t have another crisis every year?

ANSWER
The governor’s legislative agenda for this special session is available here. This package of bills finishes the work begun in the first special session. Gov. Edwards’ plan includes cutting expensive state tax expenditures to businesses that hurt Louisiana citizens and do not provide enough return on investment. The state currently gives away too many tax exemptions and exclusions to businesses to properly fund critical state services each year – we are actually paying out more than we are collecting. The plan also includes cleaning up errors resulting from the handling of legislation at the end of the first special session and taking significant steps towards the broader long-term tax reform that our state needs.