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The Latest: La. lawmakers hope to end session Sunday night

June 22, 2018
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State Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, second from left, speaks with, from left, Reps. Joe Bouie, D-New Orleans; Charles "Bubba" Chaney, R-Rayville; John Bagneris, D-New Orleans; and Jeff Hall, D-Alexandria, on the House floor as sales tax negotiations continued, Friday, June 22, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Latest on Louisiana’s special session on taxes (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

Louisiana’s legislative leaders believe they may be able to wrap up the state’s latest special session on Sunday night.

House passage of a tax deal on Friday has paved the way for that possibility.

The House agreed to renew 0.45 percent of a 1 percent sales tax that expires July 1, to stave off deep budget cuts.

Republican Senate President John Alario says he expects the Senate to approve the tax measure without changes — so, it won’t have to return to the House for a second vote.

Alario says senators might rewrite the budget bill to spend the $463 million the tax would raise. But he says he thinks the changes will be easy to work out with the House.

Lawmakers have gathered for four legislative sessions this year.

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4:50 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is praising a sales tax and spending deal that won passage in the Louisiana House.

The Democratic governor said the bills passed Friday make “tremendous progress in stabilizing our finances.”

The bills still need support from the Senate, but getting the two-thirds House vote for a sales tax was expected to be the hardest vote to obtain.

Edwards said though the budget would still take cuts in July under the legislation, those reductions won’t be catastrophic.

The House agreed to renew 0.45 percent of a 1 percent sales tax that expires July 1. It scraped by with four more votes than needed to pass.

The bill would keep the state sales tax rate at 4.45 percent through mid-2025 and would raise $463 million for the upcoming budget.

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3:30 p.m.

Lawmakers in the Louisiana House agreed to a sales tax renewal. Then, they voted to spend the $463 million it would raise for the budget that begins in July.

The spending plans adopted in a 95-1 vote Friday would shield higher education and the TOPS college tuition program from cuts, along with the food stamp program. Some public safety programs still would take reductions.

Health care services for the poor, elderly and disabled already were protected in the budget previously passed by lawmakers. That wouldn’t change.

The budget bill passed Friday and headed to the Senate for consideration would spend the dollars raised from a House-backed sales tax measure. Lawmakers agreed to renew 0.45 percent of a 1 percent sales tax that is expiring July 1. That, too, still requires Senate debate.

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3:10 p.m.

The Louisiana House broke through its tax logjam, agreeing to renew part of an expiring sales tax to avoid deep cuts to colleges and state programs.

Lawmakers voted 74-24 Friday to renew 0.45 percent of a 1 percent sales tax that expires July 1. It needed 70 votes to pass.

The bill would keep the state sales tax rate at 4.45 percent through mid-2025.

A mix of Republicans and Democrats supported the measure, sending it to the Senate for consideration in a special session that must end Wednesday.

The deal aimed to bridge disagreements between Gov. John Bel Edwards’s push for a 0.5 percent rate and House GOP leaders’ push for a 0.4 percent rate.

The proposal would raise about $40 million less than needed to fully finance the upcoming budget.

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11:30 a.m.

Louisiana Senate leaders are proposing a last-ditch method of raising revenue to avoid deep cuts in the budget that takes hold in days.

With a 7-2 vote Friday, the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs started advancing legislation that would delay expiration of a 1 percent sales tax that falls off the books July 1.

The proposal from Republican Senate President John Alario and Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Chairman J.P. Morrell would keep the sales tax in place for another year. The method to do that is a technical one, temporarily suspending the sales tax expiration.

Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, says it’s not the favored approach. But senators worry that the House remains deadlocked on its sales tax bills.

There’s disagreement about how many votes it would take to pass the resolution.

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8 a.m.

Lawmakers in the Louisiana House are having trouble bridging the same divides that left two previous special sessions this year without a tax deal.

As the House returns Friday for further negotiations, lawmakers are wondering if this third special session will end with the same inaction as the first.

Steep budget cuts across college campuses and state programs are near. They’ll hit agencies and higher education in July if lawmakers don’t agree to additional taxes.

Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras urged lawmakers Thursday night to continue tax talks, to try to break the stalemate. But he described his chamber at an “extreme deadlock.”

At issue is how much of an expiring 1 percent sales tax to renew. Renewal takes a two-thirds vote, requiring a mix of Republican and Democratic votes.

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