Edwards turns to Louisiana business leaders for budget ideas

Gov. John Bel Edwards is starting an outreach effort to solicit ideas for patching a more than $1 billion hole in next year’s state operating budget, meeting today with business leaders from around Louisiana to build support for a budget-balancing fix.

The closed-door gathering at the Louisiana Capitol is intended to be the first of several conversations with people who run businesses. Edwards is trying to drum up grassroots support for proposals to address the shortfall without devastating health and education programs.

“He wants the business community to stay involved as the process moves forward,” Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo says.

Combined with those talks, Edwards next week also will begin regional meetings with state lawmakers to discuss ways to offset the “fiscal cliff” that hits on July 1, 2018, when temporary taxes expire.

Tax ideas previously offered by the Democratic governor have failed to win support in the majority-Republican Legislature, nearly all the measures bottled up in the House, where most tax bills must start.

Any tax plans will require a special session, but Edwards says he won’t call one unless he can reach a consensus with House GOP leaders who were the primary roadblock to his previous proposals. The shortfall will be caused mainly by the loss of a 1% temporary sales tax hike enacted in 2016.

Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, says he welcomes the governor’s outreach to the business community, which comes after Edwards earlier this year described large corporations as not paying “their fair share” of taxes as he sought to shift more of the state tax burden to businesses.

“Hopefully, these meetings will be where some of that harmful rhetoric is taken back and the collaborative trends begin to move our state in a different direction,” Waguespack says in his weekly opinion column.

Waguespack won’t be at today’s meeting, which Carbo says wasn’t aimed at statewide business associations but at those people running companies.

The Associated Press has the full story.

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