Major revenue-generating bill fails in the House, lawmakers “exhausted” but hopeful

Posted at 10:31 PM, May 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-25 23:31:55-04

After four days in special session, lawmakers in Baton Rouge are still working against the clock to resolve the $640 million budget shortfall.

Today, the House rejected HB 27, proposed by Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris.

That bill called for a temporary one-third cent sales tax that would expire in 2023 and generate roughly $360 million a year.

Although that bill failed, lawmakers agree they want to approve a sales tax, but they also say there’s still a lot of problems they need to work through before they do.

"63 yays, 38 nays. The bill fails to pass," announced Speaker of the House Taylor Barras from Lafayette. Later, one representative amended his vote and totaled 64 yays, 37 nays.

Despite bipartisan support, Rep. Harris’ bill was rejected, 6 votes shy of a pass to Senate.

Harris, using the FY 17-18 budget, disagrees with the projected shortfall, saying it is closer to $490 million than $640.

"We are using this year’s expenditure budget, what the state of Louisiana is spending on expenditures right now. We believe the state can spend the same amount of money plus a little less without having any major interruptions in services," said Harris.

Prior to the voting, Democratic Caucus leader, Robert Johnson, urged fellow democrats to vote in favor of the bill.

"I certainly don’t like this bill. I think it does fall short of getting our entire priorities fixed and fixing our shortfall. But it’s a start, therefore, I ask that you take that step and get this bill to the senate," said Johnson.

Although the bill did have some democratic support, Opelousas Rep. Dustin Miller voted against it.

"I think we need to do more of a comprehensive approach not just a sales tax that’s going be a third of the penny and you’re still going to have drastic cuts that will be implemented. If we’re going to fix it, we need to fix it. Not just patch it," he said.

Many say they are exhausted and frustrated, but lawmakers are still hopeful they will come to a solution.

"The problem is we need to get to 70 votes," said Miller. "So we need to find an instrument that 70 people agree with to move forward. A lot of the people who voted yes just wanted to get an instrument over to send to the senate and let them fix it. But there’s a lot of people including myself in the House that say we need to fix the problem we don’t need to keep sending it over to them and just let them fix it."

Harris believing his 5-year tax extension is a compromise.

"That’s why it’s so hard for me to run this bill, but it’s a compromise. The body needs a compromise in this situation. Many things could happen over the weekend that could make this a successful outcome so we’ll see what happens Monday and Tuesday," he said.

Harris said he will be bringing back that bill next week for another vote.

Governor Edwards released a statement saying, "while I’m disappointed that we haven’t made more progress to close the budget gap, the fact that a majority of both the republican and democratic caucus members supported renewing a portion of the expiring revenue gives me hope that we can come to an agreement very soon."

The House and the Senate will reconvene Monday at 2. Though unclear what they plan to do, the special session’s deadline is June 4.