BATON ROUGE, LA (KPLC-TV) - The opening session of the Louisiana Legislature was a time of cheerful bipartisanship, but that is likely to give way to contentious partisanship as the session rolls along.
The main issue that is likely to spark debate is lawmakers grappling to fix Louisiana's fiscal crises. Not only is the state facing a $1 billion shortfall for next fiscal year, but lawmakers must also deal with immediate cuts during the last three months of the current fiscal year, due to an unexpected fall in revenue in February. Just how deep these cuts will be and what state agencies will take hits depends on March revenue numbers.
One option that does not appear to be on the table is raising taxes. For one, by law, lawmakers cannot increase taxes since it is an even-numbered year. If somehow lawmakers made it pass these limits, Governor Bobby Jindal said he would veto any such legislation.
"Every time I can remember in our state's history, whenever we have faced fiscal challenges, our state has done one of two things," said Jindal to lawmakers on Monday. "We've either raised taxes on our people or we've expanded gambling. We will not, we must not do that in the face of the challenges we face today."
Lake Charles lawmakers were optimistic that the debate over the budget would be cordial, but acknowledged more balancing the budget this session will not be easy.
"Anytime you talk about more cuts on anything, it's going to make it bad," said Representative A.B. Franklin (D-District 34). "But…I want to be positive."
"[The shortfall is] potentially $400 million, so higher ed, you know McNeese and folks like that are going to be potentially looking at some additional cuts," said Rep. Brett Geymann (R-District 35).
"We're looking forward to the session," said Sen. Willie Mount (D-District 27). "It is a session that will be very, very challenging."
Lawmakers will consider more than 1500 pieces of legislation, including 100 constitutional amendment proposals. The legislature must adjourn by 6pm on June 21st.