BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Legislature spent more than $1.5 million for the three special sessions it held to consider taxes to avoid deep cuts to the state budget.
The February, May and June sessions, covering 36 days, were called by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Lawmakers couldn't vote on tax measures in this year's regular session.
The House and Senate tallied the expenses and provided the information in response to public records requests. The House spent $1 million for the three sessions, and the Senate spent nearly $542,000. Costs include printing and supplies, extra hours for staff, additional employees hired for session and per diem and mileage for lawmakers.
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports the House and Senate gatherings cost an average $42,921 in taxpayer funding per day.
Almost 60 percent of the money spent covered the per-day pay lawmakers receive for session, along with their mileage reimbursements for driving to Baton Rouge. That cost the state $906,293 over three special sessions, according to the records provided.
The first two sessions ended without a deal. In the third, lawmakers agreed to renew 0.45 percent of an expiring 1 percent state sales tax to close much of a looming budget gap and stave off hefty cuts. The state sales tax rate is now 4.45 percent.
Some of the costs of the second special session would have been incurred anyway, since it was held when lawmakers would otherwise have been meeting in their regular legislative session.
The nearly $195,000 Senate cost tallied for the second special session would have been spent for the regular session under normal circumstances, said Yolanda Dixon, first assistant secretary of the Senate.
House Clerk Alfred "Butch" Speer said there's no real way to determine how much of the House's nearly $341,000 cost for the second special session would have been incurred if the regular session had run its full length instead.