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Business Tax Collections Down; Budget Hole Widens

Sue Lincoln

A clearly weary Governor John Bel Edwards met with the press today to discuss the status of the state’s finances and the special session seeking to address them.

Edwards said he keeps meeting with lawmakers, but some of them keep singing the same song.

“Legislators are somehow hoping that money is just going to show up,” the Governor said. “I learned a long time ago that hoping is not really a course of action.”

In fact, he said yesterday state economist Dr. Jim Richardson told the administration that less money is showing up.

“We likely have an additional $200-million hole in the current year, in terms of the revenue that we can expect to come in,” Edwards explained. “And as you know, next fiscal year after we make our state debt payments, we have to close out whatever that deficit is.”

That means the hole for the budget year that starts in two weeks is effectively $800-million, rather than $600-million.

“Most of the revenue that has come out of the House – in fact, almost all of the revenue that’s come out of the House thus far – really just gets us back to where we were,” Edwards said. “We haven’t raised additional dollars yet for some of these priorities.”

The added $200-million hole is due to lower than anticipated corporate tax collections. The governor also said that should make Sen. Rick Ward’s SB 10 -- which requires industry to choose which of two tax breaks to forego -- more acceptable to certain lawmakers.

“It seems like ending double-dipping right now is a prudent thing to do,” the Governor said.

But he also worries that for some legislators, the doomsday scenario will have to play out.

“Two weeks from today, in 14 days, any deficits from this year or next which the legislature refuses to address, will begin to take effect in the form of real cuts.”