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Gov. Edwards Breaks With Tradition, Opens Special Session At UL Lafayette

Wallis Watkins
Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed a crowd at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Tuesday, May 22, to open the second special session of 2018.

Another special session is underway at the Capitol. But on Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards broke tradition and didn’t address the legislature to open the session. Instead, he left the Capitol and spoke with elected officials and supporters at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

"It's important for elected officials to get outside of that place as often as possible and interact with the people who are directly affected by their decisions," he said.

UL Lafayette and other state universities are facing budget cuts come July 1, when more than $1 billion in tax revenue expires.

Gov. Edwards wants the Legislature to replace nearly $650 million of that revenue. But doing so will take compromise, the very thing that eluded the Legislature in the first special session earlier this year.

Edwards says he's open to maintaining half of the one-cent in sales tax set to expire. That would knock the state sales tax down from 5 percent to 4.5 percent.

"While I would rather do away with the additional penny of sales tax altogether, I'm willing to meet in the middle," said Edwards.

Legislators will also have to agree on how much money to raise. Jean Paul Coussan is a Republican Representative from Lafayette. He says not everyone agrees the entire $650 million is needed.

"I think compromise is not a dirty word," Rep. Coussan said. "I look forward to watching the Governor compromise with us as well."

Pearson Cross is the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts at UL Lafayette. He says compromise may be difficult because partisan tension between the Governor and the Legislature hasn't let up.

"He has implied — and said straight out on a number of occasions — that they are not doing right by the citizens of Louisiana," says Cross. "This has ratcheted up the tension between the Legislature and the Governor, at this point I think they're very antagonistic."