The third special session of the year kicks off Monday, with some legislators expected to go to battle for the last time this year over the state’s persistent budget issues under the specter of deep cuts to TOPS and other state services. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says passing the half penny sales tax renewal will be the focus, because it fully funds the government.

"It results in more than a $500 million savings to the Louisiana taxpayer, based on what they are paying now," said Dardenne.
The half-cent sales tax came just 7 votes short of passage on the last night of the previous session, but 20 Republican legislators in the House are at odds with plan, and would prefer a third penny and 126 million dollars in across the board cuts.
Freshman Republican Hammond Representative Nicky Muscarello, one of the 20 House Republicans who voted against the half penny, but for the third penny, says the state can get by without the higher tax.
"The third of penny will bring about 400-million dollars that brings us about 453-million dollars, which I felt at the time was just enough to get us where we need to be," said Muscarello.
If the legislature manages to pass a revenue bill, it will likely be a short term deal lasting at most 6 years. That means half a decade from now, the whole process will likely start again. Dardenne says he’s disappointed that it came down to another sales tax, instead of permanent structural tax reform.
"Certainly it's not consistent with what the recommendations have been to change Louisiana's tax system, so I think you are going to continue to see discussion about that in the years ahead," said Dardenne.

Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat says there are many factors that play into the lawmakers’ decisions.

"Is there something in it for these legislators?  If they vote for this, will they face problems in their reelection? If they vote for this, will they be granted favorite status as far as the governor and what he can do for them?" asks Pinsonat.

Pinsonat says that even though the discussion has been focused on renewing a sales tax that is either a third of a penny or a half of a penny, there may be a discussion of an amount somewhere in between the two amounts.

"We're not talking about a lot of money, but we're talking about principles and we're talking about Republicans demanding something in return, especially cutting the budget," says the political analyst.

The analyst seems fairly optimistic that a solution will be met in the third special session, but says it’s always a possibility that more stalling could occur.

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