BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards was in "disbelief" after the Special Session appeared to crash here late Wednesday night with little hope of success.
Earlier in the day the governor said the "next 24 hours" were critical and implored lawmakers to find common ground as the clock kept ticking on the Special Session, although many lawmakers questioned whether it could be saved.
"It's a train wreck," said Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville. "We should either have enough guts to raise taxes or make cuts, but I haven't seen a sign of it yet."
That became clear when a measure to raise sales tax needing a two-thirds majority in the House, or 70 votes, was shot down and failed by a 38-67 vote.
"Maybe we should admit failure and sine die (end the session)," said Republican Rep. Tanner Magee of Houma.
That's now a distinct possibility, although the House is scheduled to gavel into session again at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Edwards, during a speech at the Baton Rouge Rotary, said time was growing short.
"The next 12 to 24 hours are going to be critical in whether or not we will succeed," he said.
"Even at this late hour we see people who are not really talking to each other ... but I'm not giving up," he said.
Edwards called lawmakers into this 17-day special session Feb. 19 asking them to pass about $1 billion in new permanent taxes to replace a portion of the more than $1.3 billion in temporary taxes that expire June 30.
The governor said if nothing is done there will be a $994 million shortfall in next year's budget that would force dramatic cuts to the popular scholarship program TOPS, health care and higher education.
But on Wednesday he acknowledge his target has shrunk to $692 million because of federal tax changes that will generate an estimated $302 million in revenue for the state.
"This is imminently doable," he said. "We can get this done, but we have to come together in good faith to get it done."
But common ground was scarce.
"We've wasted our time, maybe our health," Rep. Julie Stokes, R-New Orleans, tweeted. "We've wasted the taxpayers' trust."
The House did come together to pass the Louisiana Checkbook bill from House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, by a unanimous 104-0 vote.
Barras' bill would create a website where virtually every public penny could be tracked.
"It can be a model of transparency for us going forward," he said.
In a statement to media, Edwards' spokesman said: "The governor is in disbelief that the speaker abandoned the plan that he put on the table and ended the day in such a chaotic fashion. That's a sad day for Louisiana."
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1