An urgent need to compromise highlighted the opening address Gov. John Bel Edwards delivered to legislators as they began a third special session at the State Capitol.
Gov. Edwards called representatives and senators back to Baton Rouge with the hope they will agree on a plan to create revenue to fill the $648 million deficit the state will face upon expiration of the temporary one-cent sales tax June 30.
He urged lawmakers to cast aside partisan politics and focus on solutions to avoid deep cuts to education, TOPS, sheriff’s offices, district attorneys and other agencies.
“The time for politics and partisanship is over,” Gov. Edwards said. “The time for solutions is now … the citizens of this state have waited long enough. They deserve results – now.”
He called lawmakers to the State Capitol a third time this year – and seventh since January 2016 – after they closed the previous special session June 4 without revenue to avoid $98 million cuts to state colleges, $88 million cuts to TOPS and an end to per diems paid to parish prisons for housing inmates from outside of their area.
Lawmakers closed the last session after a raucous battle that ended when state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, filibustered for the final 75 seconds to end the session without a revenue compromise. The move infuriated Gov. Edwards, House Democrats and several of their Republican counterparts.
“Today, I am here to simply implore you to work with me – and with each other – to get the job done,” Gov. Edwards said. “I understand that everyone is tired and ready to go home.”
He acknowledged disagreement over policy, but he said the philosophical aspects did not create the state’s problems.
“It’s politics – and that’s simply inexcusable,” he said. “The people of Louisiana deserve better than that.
“Our children deserve better, our seniors and veterans deserve better, and our constituents should not be used as political pawns because a handful of people have decided to play a game of partisan chess with our budgeting process,” he said. “This is our last chance to finally achieve the stability Louisiana needs so that we can continue our tremendous momentum of creating jobs, attracting new businesses and industries, and educating the next generation of workers.”
“But friends, let’s not fool ourselves – if you think we’re frustrated, just think about how frustrated the people of Louisiana are by now,” Gov. Edwards said. “For two years, they have been waiting for solutions, waiting for the legislature to act. That action must come now.”