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Edwards to unveil worst-case scenario Louisiana budget - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Edwards to unveil worst-case scenario Louisiana budget

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Courtesy of MGN Online Courtesy of MGN Online

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - After warning for months the proposal would be devastating to Louisiana residents, Gov. John Bel Edwards unveils his worst-case scenario budget Monday, which assumes lawmakers will refuse to replace $1 billion in expiring sales taxes and force widespread slashing across state government.
  
The Democratic governor is required to submit a spending plan for the budget year starting July 1 that only accounts for the dollars expected to be available. The proposal won't include temporary sales taxes that expire when the new financial year begins that Edwards wants replaced with other taxes.
  
Edwards warned the cuts in his proposal, to be presented to the Legislature's joint budget committee, would balloon to $2.8 billion with the loss of federal matching dollars. This year's state operating budget topped $28 billion.
  
In a speech to military veterans Friday, he promised that the state's veterans affairs department and Louisiana National Guard would be shielded in his budget recommendations. But public college campuses, the TOPS tuition program and health programs for the poor, elderly and disabled are expected to face proposed deep reductions because they have the fewest protected financing sources.
  
"The most heavily impacted will be the Department of Health," Edwards told the veterans.
  
The governor repeatedly stresses that he has no interest in seeing such a budget become reality.
  
"It is not going to be pretty. It will not reflect a budget that I want to see implemented. And in fact, the cuts will be devastating," he said in one recent speech.
  
Edwards wants to offset the expiring temporary taxes with a package of other taxes that could raise or maintain higher taxes on businesses and middle- and upper-income earners. House Republicans have blocked the idea in previous legislative sessions.
  
To pass a tax package this year would require a special session, and Edwards said he would only call one if he can reach an agreement in principle with House GOP leaders. So far, they haven't struck that deal. Negotiations continue. No one has offered a proposal for cutting the full $1 billion - until Edwards does so Monday.
  
Ahead of the hearing, lawmakers were bracing for a spending plan that would look grim.
  
"It's going to be the worst thing we've ever seen, in my opinion. You can't cut a billion dollars without hurt," said Rep. Patricia Smith, a Baton Rouge Democrat. "I think they should take it very seriously."
  
Rep. Jack McFarland, a Winnfield Republican, anticipates lawmakers and the governor will reach an agreement to at least replace part of the expiring tax revenue.
  
"I don't believe that we're going to go in here and cut a billion dollars," McFarland said. "I don't think anybody has the stomach for it to happen."
  
But he also expects some reductions to happen, saying he doesn't believe lawmakers will agree to offset the full billion dollars with taxes.

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