As the special session enters its second week, lawmakers still haven’t been able to agree on a way to raise revenue.
Central to the negotiations is a bill by Rep. Lance Harris, head of the House GOP. It would temporarily extend one-third of the expiring penny in sales tax and end some sales tax exemptions.
"This bill in its current posture gives us the best opportunity to move an instrument that can go a ways to filling those needs in the budget that many of us think are critical," Harris (R-Alexandria) said.
Harris’ bill is the biggest revenue generator being considered, raising about $370 million for next fiscal year. But critics, like Republican Rep. Rob Shadoin (Ruston), say that isn’t enough money to avoid major cuts to services his constituents depend on.
“When I look at higher education and rural healthcare, I don’t think the one-third penny gets us — in Lincoln and Union Parishes — to where the folks back home need to be," said Shadoin.
Many House Democrats opposed the bill for the same reason. Still, Democratic Rep. Sam Jones (Franklin) urged members to move things along and advance the bill to the Senate.
"This bill does not fix it, but it's a start," Jones said.
Instead, the House rejected the bill on a bipartisan vote.
In a statement released Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he was disappointed in the lack of progress, but is hopeful lawmakers will be able to reach a compromise and avoid major cuts in state services.
While Representative Harris’ bill can still be brought back up for another vote, it’s failure Friday raises concerns about the success of the special session, which must end by June 4. In the meantime, negotiations continue.