LIVINGSTON – Sen. Dale Erdey’s legislative career approaches the sunset in 2019.
Term limits will close the book on the three-term Senator, who began his campaign in 2009 after two-term predecessor Clo Fontenot opted against another four years in office.
Erdey’s final term will come during a fiscal session, although he does not expect the budget turmoil which has been the norm over the last four years. The session may seem calm by comparison, he said, particularly after recent years when he and fellow lawmakers faced the task of closing budget gaps of nearly $1 billion.
He and all other state lawmakers last year weathered a storm of three special sessions, which culminated with the renewal of 44.5 percent of the one-cent sales tax in a stormy budget battle during the 2018 legislative session.
“It was a pretty rough roller coaster ride,” said Erdey, R-Livingston. “I thought the first special session last year was premature, and the regular session was very difficult because of so much that was involved, reading into other legislation and taking care of your own.”
He suspects the strain from more than four months at the Capitol left many legislators resigned to accept tax proposals rather than budget cuts.
“It’s almost like we were beaten down to the point that the consensus became about throwing in the towel and raising taxes, but we didn’t renew the whole penny,” Erdey said.
The jury is out on whether it was the right move, Erdey said.
“Only time will tell, but we are seeing a surplus,” he said.
A group of House Republicans led by Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, and Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry blocked the release of a fiscal forecast from the Revenue Estimating Committee in November. The move angered Gov. John Bel Edwards and his fellow Democrats, as well as some Republicans.
The rejection may have not been a bad idea, Erdey said.
“We put a lot of trust in the REC, which comes out with an inaccurate figure on what’s only a forecast,” he said. “The crystal ball doesn’t always come up with the best estimate.”
The plummeting oil prices could bite into whatever surplus the REC may project when it meets again in February. The state budget bases oil prices at $45 per barrel. A drop below that figure drains upwards of $12 million per day, he said.
“The biggest challenge this year will be the fiscal session, and looking at what to do on the sales tax situation based on what the surplus may or may not be,” Erdey said.
A session during the election year will likely not bring any budget reform, he said.
“With the elections coming up this fall, I expect any discussion of the budget to be fairly calm,” Erdey said.
Erdey admits the final year will be bittersweet, but said he hopes to remain active in community affairs after he bids farewell to the State Capitol.
“It’s been a good ride, and I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I hope to stay in a position to help people.”