The Louisiana Legislature convened again on Monday, just a week after adjourning its special session on the budget crisis.

Following lawmakers’ failure to produce any long-term or short-term budget relief, the regular session will allow them a chance for some redemption.

“Many of you will find that it’s much harder than it seems because when you cut funding, you cut services that many people in this state rely upon,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday. “To those that say we can cut our way out of this, it’s your time to step up to the plate.”

The governor and Democrats in the Legislature have been in disagreement with legislative Republicans over how to address the impending $700 million shortfall in the state’s budget.

But the special session offered little hope of progress, as the two sides remained mired in partisan gridlock while the crisis inches ever closer.

During the regular session this year, the Legislature cannot by law consider tax measures. But it can consider any cost-cutting bills Republicans are willing to offer to attack the budget problem from the spending side of the equation.

It is unlikely that any cuts that rise to the level of $700 million will be able to gain the favor of enough lawmakers and the governor to be implemented. But some good-faith proposals on the part of Republicans might get the process started once again.

Yet another special session will probably have to take place after the regular session but before $1.3 billion in temporary taxes expire at the end of June.

If the two sides can lay some cooperative groundwork now, they might be able to work together to craft a mutually acceptable solution.

Long-term reform, what will be needed to head off future crises of this sort, will have to wait.

In the meantime, though, the Legislature will also be dealing with non-financial bills covering everything from abortion to school security to the state’s scholarship program.

Perhaps lawmakers can find enough common ground on those unrelated matters to fuel some mutual trust and communication – two things they will need if they are to be able to solve the immediate budget problem, to say nothing of the long-term issues that continue to plague Louisiana.

The new session will offer chances to work together, compromise and implement real change for the people of the state. Now, we just have to hope our legislators take advantage of the opportunity.

 

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