Report from Louisiana: The Fiscal Cliff

 By:  Pat Austin

Louisiana State Capital

SHREVEPORT – Louisiana is facing a $994 million fiscal gap if the legislature can’t break gridlock in the current special session which ends Wednesday.

Expiring sales tax laws are primarily the culprit for the shortfall but many contend that years of Bobby Jindal’s shell games are also partly to blame.

Whatever the cause, everything is now on the table for cuts: hospitals, law enforcement, higher education, college scholarships, you name it.

Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate, but votes are needed from both sides to pass any kind of legislation at this point that will break the gridlock that has crippled this session.

So far, little has been agreed upon but by the end of last week momentum began to pick up and the following bills were agreed upon by the House and moved to the Senate:

HB 3 by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, which would require able-bodied Medicaid recipients work or volunteer to keep their eligibility, although there is some wiggle room in terms of how strongly it would be enforced.

HB 2 by Rep. Tony Bacala, which aims to combat Medicaid fraud by allowing the legislative auditor access to recipient tax returns.

HB 27 by Rep. Pat Smith, which would implement a 60-cent-per-year tax for accessibility programs for the deaf.

HB 10 by Rep. Ted James, which would increase federal income tax liability by the amount someone’s federal income tax was lowered during 2016 or 2017 after claiming the federal standard or itemized deduction for certain net disaster losses. It’s supposed to help flood victims from the 2016 March and August floods.

It seems certain that the shortfall can not be resolved without higher taxes which has been the cause of much grumbling and discontent at the water cooler and there has been discussion on who would be paying those taxes.

For the second year in a row Louisiana is at the bottom of the list of states with sound fiscal stability.

Whatever the final outcome, the lasting impression of this special session has been one of sniping, finger-pointing, and impasse.  A typical day at the office for the legislature.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport; follow her on Instagram at patbecker25