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Special Session and the Rainy Day Question

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“I’m the last person that really wants a special session. My life is actually easier when you-all are not in session,” Governor John Bel Edwards told the Joint Budget Committee ten days ago.

Yet despite the reservations of most everyone involved, the governor has issued the call for a special session to deal with the current year shortfall.

It starts Monday, February 13th at 6:30 p.m., and runs till midnight Wednesday, February 22nd.

The governor’s call authorizes lawmakers to access all areas of the budget, including statutory dedications.

“I’m asking the legislature to approve the use of $119.6-million from the Rainy Day Fund towards the shortfall,” the governor said, and he acknowledged that idea is not universally supported.

“I’m aware of the fact that this approach has carried some criticism lately from some members.”

A list of alternate suggestions from House Republican Caucus chair Lance Harris did not include use of the Rainy Day Fund, but did include slashing state Health Department spending by $147-million. On Friday, Republican U.S. Senator John Kennedy weighed in.

“I do not see how legislators can in good conscience further drain the Rainy Day Fund when oversight is so lax at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals,” Kennedy said in a letter to Governor Edwards, making reference to a recent legislative audit of DHH.

But the democratic governor reminds lawmakers, “The previous administration tapped the Rainy Day Fund four times. And that money was used when the skies were much clearer than they are today. For purposes of the Rainy Day Fund, it’s stormin’.”

Monroe Representative Katrina Jackson, also a Democrat, concurs.

“We use it when we’re raining, but after 6 or 7 years of cuts, I think we’re having a Category 5 storm in Louisiana,” Jackson said.

Today the administration is releasing its detailed proposal for the budget cuts.