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After Tax Compromise, Long-Term Budget Reform Still Marred By Politics

Sarah Gamard/LSU Manship School News Service
File photo: Senator Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell)

As the Legislature was wrapping up sales-tax negotiations Sunday, the debate over long-term structural tax reform in Louisiana showed little sign of slowing down. 

"Members, we spent the last few months debating about how much sales tax we need to raise, rather than if we need to raise taxes," said Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell).

Sen. Hewitt is among the Republicans considering a run against John Bel Edwards in next year's gubernatorial election. She spoke out in the final hours of the special session to express her frustration with the Legislature's dependence on temporary sales tax to fix budget problems and criticized Gov. Edwards for not doing more to address state spending.

"I do not believe that the Governor has honored his commitment to do any budget reform, and as long as we continue to solve long-term expenditure problems with short-term solutions, like tax increases, we will never solve our state's fiscal challenges," she explained.

Gov. Edwards countered Hewitt's comments Sunday night, following the official end of the special session. He says budget reform has been at the top of his priority list, and it's the Legislature that's failed to act.

"I embraced every single recommendation that came from the task force created by the Legislature, to study fiscal and budget reform. The House chose not to pass a single one," the Governor said.

He's referring to the task force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy, created by the Legislature in 2016 to recommend ways the state could stabilize its revenue. Those recommendations failed to get support in the House last year.

Going forward, Edwards says the politics of passing budget reform measures likely won't get any easier.

"If it didn't happen in the first three years of this term, it's not gonna happen next year in an election year." He explained.  "It is just simply too hard.”