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Contention Continues As Another Special Session is Coming

“I intend to issue a call to bring the Legislature into session to address the shortfall,” Governor John Bel Edwards told the Joint Budget Committee Friday. He advised them to prepare to be in session from February 13th through 23rd.

He then took questions from committee members, many of which are some of his toughest critics.”

“We’re going to have a ‘huger’ deficit, a larger one, in that out-year…” House Republican Caucus chair Lance Harris began.

“I like ‘huger’,” the Governor interrupted, with a big grin.

“Yeah, well, remember I grew up in Pineville, okay?” Harris replied, chuckling.

“Which is why I don’t want to cut K-12 education, by the way,” Edwards remarked, eliciting laughter from the panel and the audience – and Harris.

The exchanges with House Appropriations chair Cameron Henry weren’t nearly as pleasant.

“K through 12 – what carves them out as special?” Henry asked, with a decided edge to his voice. “I mean, are they run so efficiently that they can’t take any reduction?”

“Well, the agencies aren’t special, but our kids are,” Governor Edwards responded.

“Do you think the agency’s heads could be doing the same thing to you that, at times, you and your predecessors have done to us, by giving us the worst-case scenario of what the cuts would be?” Henry pressed.

Edwards paused and clenched his jaw a bit, then simply answered, “No.”

Henry and Edwards glared at each other for a few seconds, then the Appropriations chair leaned back in his chair and said, “Okay.”

I spoke with the governor afterward, asking him about the opposition’s intractability.

“It is hard,” he said, frankly. “It’s harder than I want it to be, because the problems are more pronounced than I want them to be. But also because it’s harder in many cases to work with the individuals with whom I have to work.”

He smiled, and shook his head a bit, then continued, “But it’s my job, so I’m going to it the best that I can. And that will include working with Cameron Henry, Lance Harris and the Speaker, and everybody else.”

The governor says he’ll be issuing the special session call this week, and will bring forward his complete plan for the $304-million shortfall February 6th.