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Louisiana big business doesn’t like John Bel Edwards’ June special session

May 4, 2016
By Julia O'Donoghue
Originally Posted on The Times Picayune

One of the Louisiana's most powerful lobby groups has come out against Gov. John Bel Edwards' intention to call a June special session on taxes, spending and budget issues.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry's president Stephen Waguespack argued Wednesday (May 4) that Louisiana won't have enough information about the most recent tax changes passed in March to warrant another special session as early as June.

"The state's economists have repeatedly testified that the impact of the 2015 income tax changes and 2016 sales tax changes will not be known until after this fiscal year ends, probably in July or August," Waguespack wrote in an opinion piece the appears on his organization's website.

Waguespack argued for a special session to start no earlier than the fall -- and he isn't the only one. Louisiana House Republicans have also argued that a special session on tax and budget issues shouldn't happen until the fall either.

But Edwards, Democrats and the Senate leadership -- including Republicans -- have said a special session is necessary in June, before the state's next budget cycle begins July 1. State agencies, universities and others that rely on public money won't be able to wait until the fall for more certainty on their state funding.

Specifically, Edwards has argued that the state's college scholarship program, TOPS, can't wait until the fall when students have to start using the award to cover tuition. TOPS is currently short $183.2 million.

Louisiana House Republicans have said they think they can fund the scholarship program fully through budget cuts alone, though Edwards and the Senate remain skeptical.

Waguespack and other business interests have reasons to be nervous about another special session in June. Edwards and several legislators -- both Republican and Democrat -- have said that tax breaks that benefit the corporate community will be a primary target for cuts.