DENHAM SPRINGS – State Sen Dale Erdey said he is not looking forward to a special legislative session – where the rainy day fund will be targeted – because more than that is needed to solve the state’s fiscal problems.
“I’m not very excited about going back into session,” Erdey told the Livingston Parish Republican Women on Wednesday, Feb. 1. since it will cost $50,000 a day.
More “flexibility” is needed to balance the state’s budget, he said.
Erdey’s comments came before Gov John Bel Edwards officially called the special session, to run Monday, Feb. 13, to Wednesday, Feb. 22.
The governor has said he will ask for $119 million from the rainy day fund to help address the state’s $304 million deficit.
“In December, we found we were $313 million short for the last fiscal year,” Erdey said, “and the governor had to make cuts … cut health care, some in higher education, most in health care.
“Now we face this current fiscal year a $304 million deficit,” he said.
As for tapping the rainy day fund, “We don’t need to take all of that,” Erdey said, but using that fund will ease the cuts probably facing health care and higher education.
“It will be an interesting session,” he said.
Erdey said he felt Edwards has other options.
“The governor and administration can make these cuts on their own, but the governor wants to look at the rainy day fund,” Erdey said.
“We need legislation to open some other areas, that are protected, to cut,” he said, “other agencies that are protected. Go across the board, a 5 percent cut, try to balance budget.”
Even if Edwards manages to balance this fiscal year’s budget, look at what’s ahead, Erdey said.
“For next year’s budget, in 2018, we are another $400 million short. The one penny temporary sales tax expires June 30, 2018,” Erdey said.
“Once that rolls off, we lose revenue there,” he said, “then we face a $1.4 billion face in 2019.”
The next regular legislative session needs to look at tax credits, reductions and exclusions “to see how affective credits and reductions are to corporate Louisiana. I would like to see the cost-benefit ratio,” Erdey said.
“We need to establish whether the state is getting a good benefit from those breaks,” he said.
“The early childhood tax credit is a good one in my opinion,” Erdey said. “It is an investment in the children of Louisiana.”
“When we have robust money, we seem to open up the spigot, even with Gov. Bobby Jindal, supposedly a conservative,” Erdey said. “In his first four years, we saw many times tax deducations or credits, as fast as they would come in, they went out. (Jindal) signed them right into law.”
“I have no appetite for additional taxes,” Erdey said. “My appetite has gone after the special session.”
In last year’s second special session, the governor tried to raise $600 million in revenue, but only got $300 million, Erdey said.
“There’s a saying in the Legislature, ‘Good legislation is when nobody wins.’ Maybe it was a good session,” Erdey said. “The governor didn’t get $600 million but taxpayers lost $300 million.”
On another topic, the state senator he will continue to support the Comite River Diversion project and efforts by the governor and Louisiana congressmen to get more flood recovery funding from Washington, D.C.
“The Great Flood was one of our toughest moments in history,” he said.
“We can’t forget those -- the 13 who were lost -- our hearts go out to families,” Erdey said, “When you look at the lives lost, it impacts everyone.”
The flood affected 110,000 people, he said, many without flood insurance because they were not in a high-risk flood zone.
“Six thousand businesses were directly impacted in Livingston Parish,” Erdey said.
The governor appointed the Restore Louisiana Task Force, and Erdey said he is hopeful that it can get funding “distributed proportional to damage a parish received.”
Edwards is going back to the federal government to seek $2 billion.
“We’ve got to help everyone, included those who used their own resources, and those with insurance on home but not contents, help the working class people who are footing the bill (by) paying the taxes,” he said.
Kevin Fambrough is a reporter at the Livingston Parish News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @fambroughkevin.