Lawmakers preparing for more fiscal work in 2016

by Jeremy Alford, LaPolitics

A constitutional amendment by Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, would move fiscal sessions like the one being held now to even-numbered years.

State Rep. Harold Ritchie

Lawmakers can only create new taxes or increase them in odd-numbered years, leaving even-numbered years to host their regular sessions. But a constitutional amendment by Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, would move their fiscal sessions, like the one being held now, to even-numbered years instead.

That means the hectic 60-month fiscal session currently dragging the Capitol through the mud could be repeated again next year. It may also have the effect of rendering somewhat pointless a blanket campaign promise from all of the candidates for governor to hold a special session in 2016 after being elected to address the budget and tax code.

The flip-flop in Ritchie’s HB 189 was approved without objection by the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee last week. It’s expected to be debated on the House floor Wednesday.

While the session will hopefully end with a balanced budget, the Washington Parish lawmaker said, it’s unlikely to address the structural revenue problems plaguing the state.

“I think from watching this session here that we won’t be able to cure all of our problems,” Ritchie said. “I think we should continue this session next year, as hard as it might be.”

Making the switch would also take lawmakers off the hook for having to vote on taxes just months before they face re-election, which is arguably driving this session as much as any other factor.

“When you have an election seven months down the road, it’s tough to make those decisions,” Ritchie added.

If approved by the House and Senate, Ritchie’s constitutional amendment would next face voters on the Oct. 24 ballot.