BRADENTON, Fla. – The Louisiana Legislature failed to reach agreement on a budget for fiscal 2018, forcing lawmakers back to Baton Rouge to continue work during a special session.

House budget leaders refused to allow the full chamber to take a final vote on the $28 billion operating budget before adjourning its regular session Thursday. The Legislature also failed to pass bills authorizing next year’s capital outlay expenditures and related bond financing.

“We’re now headed into an unnecessary and costly special session where the options before [the House] won’t be any different than they were this time,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance

The House’s failure to approve a spending plan was the result of an “epic failure in leadership,” Edwards said.

Edwards and the Senate had negotiated the budget that was before the House, a bill that appropriated all revenues economists estimate the state will receive during the budget year that starts July 1.

Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, chairman of the appropriations committee, wanted $100 million of revenues set aside in case the state experiences a shortfall like it has seen in recent years.

Henry had said he did not agree with spending 100% “of a wrong number,” referring to prior forecasts by revenue estimating experts that did not pan out as the state's economy softened.

If the Legislature fails to appropriate all available funds in the budget, Edwards said the revenue cannot be spent later.

“That is a fundamental concept that some did not understand,” he said, calling the House a “dysfunctional” chamber.

During a press conference after the regular session ended Thursday, Edwards said that he had reached an agreement with the Senate to reduce the pace of spending in case anticipated revenues don’t materialize, steps the governor said his administration would have taken anyway.

Edwards said the spending plan that he negotiated with the Senate was responsible even though it made “deep cuts.”

“It paid the state’s bills and also adequately funded our most important priorities,” he said, adding that for the first time in nine years the proposed budget made no cuts to higher education.

The governor also said that there was no new revenue in the budget that the Senate passed, and there will be no new revenue available for appropriation during the special session.

“I assure you and everyone in Louisiana that I will keep the Legislature here in Baton Rouge as long as it takes to pass a budget,” he said.

Foreseeing the possibility of an impasse on the budget, Edwards had already issued a notice calling a special session to start June 8 and run through June 19.

The House, where budget and tax bills must originate, adjourned until Monday. The Senate does not plan to return to session until Wednesday.

The chambers are expected to start work anew on the budget.

While Edwards said there were good measures that passed the Legislature, including criminal justice reform, he called lawmakers out for failing to address any tax reform bills to structurally balance the state budget and stabilize revenues going forward.

At the end of fiscal 2018, several temporary revenue raising measures – including a 1-cent sales tax increase – will expire causing an immediate $1 billion shortfall.

Edwards said the House failed to pass any of the measures he proposed, and the House failed to propose any alternatives. He is expected to call another special session to address tax reform later this year.

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