State Legislature

'Sine die': With tax and spending deals, La. legislators end special session

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA / WGMB) - Louisiana lawmakers closed their third special legislative session of the year Sunday, ending a long deadlock over tax and spending matters.

Senators voted 33-6 to enact a 4.45 percent sales tax rate through 2025, replacing the 5 percent rate that sunsets July 1. Lawmakers project that renewing a portion of that expiring revenue will add $463 million to state programs next year. That money will fund the TOPS tuition program, college campuses and food stamps, items not included in the state's initial $29 billion operating budget.

"This day has been a long time coming," Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters shortly after lawmakers adjourned. "This approach we've come up with is going to give business leaders in Louisiana and those who want to invest in our state the confidence they need."

The tax proposal splits the difference between the 4.4 percent rate sought by House Republicans and the 4.5 percent rate long favored by Democrats

"Now I look forward to the bright future that I have always known was out there on the horizon," he said. "The stability and predictability is now here for us in Louisiana."

Stalemates between the parties ultimately doomed negotiations during the year’s first two special sessions and prompted Edwards to call a third one earlier this month. The governor said he was pleased with the agreement.

"Nobody got everything that they were looking for, but everybody got something," he said.

Cheers erupted Sunday in both the House and Senate, as the passage of tax and budget plans meant lawmakers could finally return to their home districts.

“I want to be home with my family," Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville) told fellow Senators. "I know you do, too."

Lawmakers displayed a lighter tone upon passing the compromise bills. Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, re-enacted a dance from the video game Fortnite on the Senate floor. Other members celebrated with laughs, handshakes and hugs.

The House and Senate bodies at large are not set to convene until April 2019, for their annual regular legislative session.

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