BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards laid out his reasoning to lawmakers Friday for a deficit-closing special session, saying he won’t seek tax increases to close the $304 million gap and will try to protect education programs from cuts.
The Democratic governor spoke to the joint House and Senate budget committee, describing plans for a less than two-week special session to begin Feb. 13, to rebalance the $27 billion state operating budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
“I’m the last person who wants another special session,” said Edwards, who called two such sessions last year to deal with budget gaps. “But when we’re looking at cuts of this magnitude, I believe it would be irresponsible not to open up the entire budget to scrutiny and it would be negligent to exclude the public from decisions that will affect them so much.”
Edwards wants to use more than $119 million from Louisiana’s “rainy day” fund to partially fill the shortfall and eliminate the rest of the deficit with cuts.
“There will be no proposal from my administration to raise a single tax or fee,” he said.
But the governor said Republican and Democratic lawmakers have asked that he allow them to consider fee hikes, so he’ll give lawmakers that option in the parameters of the special session that he’ll call.
He didn’t provide specifics about where he proposes to make cuts, saying he’ll submit that detailed legislation by Feb. 6. But Edwards said he wants to spare public colleges, K-12 education, prisons, the social services department and certain health services for the poor and people with…
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