Negotiations have begun this week in advance of next week’s special session, with parties involved hoping to get a deal in place before Monday to avoid another dramatic last-second finish to what will be the last session of the fiscal year. Senate President John Alario says they’re looking to craft a compromise deal that can get the 70 votes needed in the House for passage.

“You have to start someplace, but it was a very friendly meeting. I think everybody here respects each other and understands that we have to find some spot in between that makes it work for both sides.”

Without additional revenue, the current budget would require large cuts to higher education, Children and Family Services, Corrections, and other state agencies, as well as a 30 percent cut to TOPS.

The Westwego Republican was one of the Senate members who backed a half-penny sales tax renewal that would have fully funded state government. Alario says after two special sessions, he’s more and more legislators leaning towards a deal that would fully fund state services.

“This is an opportunity to fund TOPS at a hundred percent, fully fund our universities, children and healthcare would be adequately protected, and the threat of throwing people out of nursing homes would certainly be completely off of the table.”

20 House Republicans supported a third penny sales tax, while 22 supported a half-penny, which came 7 votes shy of passage. The difference between the two taxes on a 100 dollar purchase is 17 cents.

The half-cent sales tax that came close to passage last session had a six-year sunset, but Alario says in a perfect world, he’d like to see a permanent tax plan put in place to give the state some fiscal predictability.

“You can make the half-cent permanent, then in two or three years if you saw you didn’t need it, it only takes a civil majority to repeal it. I think it would help with our bond rating agencies and just make things a lot more stable.”

The session begins on June 18th.

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