Thursday, 31 May 2018 17:39

CRUNCH TIME: Louisiana Budget Project's Jan Moller discusses fiscal session last days

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Only four full days, excluding today, left in the second extraordinary fiscal session of the Louisiana legislature called to fix the fiscal cliff, 2018.

Will the Louisiana legislature be able to come to an agreement prior to Monday midnight?  Will a legislative agreement include more cuts to higher education, the hospitals, TOPS, the prison system and government infrastructure? If so, will the governor John Bel Edwards sign the budget into law?

According to Republican House leadership, they have extended part of the sales tax which gets us closer to bridging the gap, but, no mas.

On Wednesday night, the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee's approved House Bill 27 which would significantly cut the budget hole by raising roughly $300 million.  The method utilized was cleaning part of a penny sales taxes to items that currently receive breaks.

The conservative and Republican controlled House of Representatives passed HB27 which extended the current sales tax by one-third which would raise about $365 million, leaving roughly a $300 shortfall.

That deficit could be even worse if the cuts are made to healthcare as it could jeopardize millions of dollars in federal money.

This morning, I spoke with Jan Moller, former Capitol Reporter for the Times Picayune and currently the Executive Director of the progressive Louisiana Budget Project about the current budget status. Below is the video of complete interview.

In particular, I asked him at the end of our discussion what would the cost to the taxpayer be should the legislature close the budget hole without any further cuts? I started the question by referring to a passage from The Advocate from this morning. That article stated that the difference between the Democratic-promoted versus the House Republican-promoted versions amount to only .17 of a penny, from 4.33 to 4.5 cents. The Advocate reported the difference would be roughly seventeen cents per $100 spent. 

Below is the transcript of that part of our conversation:

SABLUDOWSKY: One last question that is that I remember earlier this morning in reading The Advocate I think it was that the reporter mentioned that in terms of the actual costs to say a family making an income of $25000, the cost to the family making 50000, would be in for the first seven dollars a year in the second 17 thousand a year, I think I think it was, based upon the numbers right now in terms of the taxes that were passed out of the Senate committee is that.

MOLLER: I haven't looked at their numbers. I think our numbers will be a little bit higher but not much higher.  I think that the difference between a third of a penny and a half a penny for example for middle income consumer I think comes to well under 50 dollars a year. You know somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 dollars a year. So maybe 75 cents a week you're paying extra in sales tax. And for the price of that you can make sure nursing homes are funded hospitals are funded and LSU has the money that they need to keep operating at local levels. And again if they don't want to do that then they could remove some of the sales tax exemptions on business utilities farm equipment and so forth.


"The legislature has five days to solve the problem that they created  for themselves by passing  a series of temporary taxes in 2015-2016".  
Moller said that members of the Senate committee asked Lance Harris to tell them "what we can live without. It always comes down to healthcare and higher education and the people who favor not solving the entire fiscal  cliff have not been honest about that side of the equation".
"We have a governor here who is not willing to go back to the era of one-time money and sort of using these cute little budget tricks to get through another year and maybe get passed the next election and i think the Governor's biggest critics would acknowledge that he's had an honest budget".
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