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Put politics aside, please

Sunday, April 7, 2019


Louisiana’s 2019 regular legislative session doesn’t convene until noon Monday, but the state already has a significant budget problem: There is no executive budget bill for the spending year that begins July 1.

That’s because Louisiana’s Revenue Estimating Conference hasn’t been able to agree on the state’s revenue projections. More precisely, it’s because House Speaker Taylor Barras, a New Iberia Republican who serves on the REC, has rejected updating projections for four consecutive meetings. One dissenting vote is enough to stymie the REC.

Consequently, the unofficial $30 billion spending plan Gov. John Bel Edwards has presented is based on Louisiana’s having more money to spend than the REC’s last estimate. Now, some House GOP leaders are wondering aloud whether Edwards’ action was legal.

Yep, here we go again. The GOP leadership vs. Gov. Edwards. It’s a set-up for another session of blatant partisanship that does a disservice to Louisiana citizens.

The REC is scheduled to meet Wednesday. We hope they can agree on an estimate so that House Bill 1 — that’s the executive budget — can be reasonably written and filed.

But perhaps our deepest longing is for the divisiveness that has characterized the Legislature for the last several years to subside. It’s fine and perfectly normal for lawmakers to disagree over issues; healthy debate is good. It can result in even stronger proposals than may have been put forth originally.

What isn’t good is a heels-dug-in, one-side’s-right, one-side’s-wrong nonnegotiable stance. That’s the posture that resulted in three special legislative sessions last year before a budget was finally solidified.

By law, legislative sessions in oddnumbered years are primarily fiscal sessions. That means most of the bills lawmakers will consider will have something to do with money.

Fiscal sessions are also short sessions — 45 meeting days within a 60 calendar day period. Plus this year is election year; all 144 legislative seats are up for re-election, as is the governor.

It’s going to get interesting in Louisiana between now and June 6, the day session must end.

Perhaps this is a good time to remind our senators and representatives their allegiance should be to the people, not politics.