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|Legislators express concern over special session|
Legislators from across northeast Louisiana are expressing their displeasure at Gov. Bobby Jindal's call for a special session of the Legislature.
State Rep. Noble Ellington expressed disappointment that the region was "almost completely overlooked" in the governor's call.
"Truth of it is, when you look at the whole billion dollars, the way it's set up now, northeast Louisiana comes up with about a zip," Ellington said. "We're fighting that battle as we speak."
Ellington lauded Jim Fannin, chairman of appropriations (D-Jonesboro), who Ellington credited with securing some $30 million in additional funds for rural roads.
Also topping Ellington's list of needed funding were area highways.
"Today, Jim Fannin and I and some others are going to get together and talk about trying to get some more money," Ellington said. "I spoke to the governor's office yesterday to try to get additional funding for Highway 84."
State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) said he expected the Jindal administration to be flexible with funding for projects in the region but echoed Ellington's concerns that northeast Louisiana was specifically excluded from the call.
"That was very noticeable and we have every reason to think the governor will be responsive to our requests," Riser said.
Jindal called legislators back into special session Sunday evening, with an order to spend some $1.088 billion on road projects, education tax credits, and an accelerated rollback of business taxes.
Jindal's call specified a number of action items across the state, including road and bridge maintenance, repair and construction projects. Also, Jindal has asked lawmakers to quicken the elimination of corporate franchise taxes, taxes on corporate debt, and sales tax on manufacturing equipment.
Those business taxes have often been targeted by lawmakers and politicos as a hindrance to business and economic development in Louisiana.
Jindal's predecessor, Kathleen Blanco, succeeded in repealing the taxes on a seven-year rollback. Jindal's proposal would accelerate the elimination of those taxes.
So far, the twelve measures proposed in Jindal's call are making their way through the various committees in both the state House of Representatives and the Senate.
Among the proposals to already pass from committee are the governor's proposed expenditures bill, HCR-1 and a proposal to establish a $300 tax credit for families with children enrolled in private, parochial, or home-school programs.
Ellington said he was comfortable with the tax credit for education and expressed an interest in reviewing the final proposal, including sources of funding for the tax credits.
"I think any time we can return some of the money back to the people that that's something we ought to try to do," Ellington said.
Riser was pleased with the progress lawmakers have made so far in the second special session of 2008 and noted the speed with which colleagues were tackling "some pretty complicated" issues.
Riser said he expected the House and Senate to receive the first bills from committee for consideration sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
The first bill, HCR-1, lifts a constitutionally imposed spending cap and will allow lawmakers to begin spending the estimated $1 billion surplus.
Fannin has previously stated he hoped lawmakers would move swiftly so that the Legislature can adjourn the session before the Easter holiday.