After fussing and fighting all week, local Republicans and Democrats finally found something to agree on: The week-long special session accomplished little.
The Senate and the House, after much debate, agreed to set aside $300 million in hopes of attracting a German steel mill and provided a way for property owners to get repaid for a hurricane-related surcharge on their insurance bills.
But the special legislative session dissolved Friday as the Senate and House adjourned early without finishing work on legislation to cut business taxes and income taxes for some, and to give parents a $125 tax credit for each child.
Most of the Democratic governor’s original agenda failed to get anywhere. Republicans in the House blocked her billion-dollar plan to fix highways and give pay raises to government workers.
Blanco was roundly criticized for calling lawmakers to the Capitol without consulting them first about her agenda.
“We all advised against the special session — Democrats, Republicans. We thought there was no real emergency,”
said Rep. Don Cazayoux, D-New Roads. “We didn’t want to come.”
Cazayoux said the Republicans “were trying to hurt the governor.”
“It was doomed from the beginning,” said Rep. Bodi White, R-Central. “There was no input, and key chairmen lacked information. The lack of communication almost doomed the whole process.”
“I don’t think it was a very productive session. I think what we did was draw attention to some things we have to deal with,” said Rep. Carl Crane, R-Baton Rouge.
One bill Blanco pushed through was the creation of a $300 million fund that would spend the cash on infrastructure, such as pilings, that will be necessary if German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp Steel AG decides to build a factory along the Mississippi River in St. James Parish.
“That was the most important thing passed. Really that was the only thing passed,” said Sen. Jody Amadee, D-Gonzales, in whose district the mill would be built. “If we land that project, it was worth every minute, but otherwise I don’t know.”
Rep. Ernie Alexander, R-Lafayette, said he didn’t like Blanco tying the spending for pay raises to the lifting of the state expenditure limit.
“I would like to have voted for the pay raise package, especially for teachers. But she made it an all-or-nothing-at-all, take-it-or-leave-it deal,” he said.
House Speaker Pro-tem Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, said the remaining issues will be settled in the regular session or another special session, “when people have had time to absorb what happened and evaluate it.”
“Hopefully, we will come back in a better frame of mind,” Dorsey said.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, visibly angry at her evening press conference, accused House Republicans of reneging on an agreement to salvage her stalled legislative package.
“It’s just the most-amazing thing I’ve ever seen a group of people do,” Blanco said as she left the State Capitol. “They’re going against their own people."
She said Republican obstruction will hurt teachers, law enforcement, the road system and especially an attempt to attract a steel mill that would employ thousands.
“If we lose this business deal,” she said, “the blame will lie squarely in their laps.”
"The Republicans in the House set a sour tone and decided that partisan politics was more important than their own people."
The governor said she hadn't thought her proposals would be difficult to pass because lawmakers have said year after year that they support teacher pay raises, road repairs and other concepts included in her spending plans.
"I thought it was an easy vote," she said.
Well, Governor... It's real convenient how you included teacher/firefighter/police/DPW pay raises in with your spending cap increase proposal... all the better to get the public into an outrage when you're blank check gets bounced by Republicans, right?
I guess we're not as dumb as you thought! We know that the pay raises will come, we just don't need to hand over $800,000,000 to you to get them!
You know, maybe when faced with a temporary surplus we should try to shore up some of our debt... instead, you treat it like a shopping spree!
Speaking of shopping sprees, I was appalled when I read how much state money the Governor spent while on her Far East Trip... $16,000! And we're not just talking about coach airfare and your average hotel room... we're talking First Class all the way, including a suite at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Wow! I guess we really do have a surplus, but how long could it possibly last with her in office?
Tsk tsk, Governor Blank-Check-Blanco... there's no way in hell you'll be back for a second term!