BATON ROUGE — Louisiana's Special Session came to a crashing halt here Sunday night, leaving lawmakers empty-handed on bills that would have raised taxes and instituted future spending reforms.
Lawmakers in the House voted against a sales tax bill that would have raised $290 million, effectively ending the session.
Technically, the House could revive it once more when it convenes at 4 p.m. Monday, but it would take two-thirds vote to reconsider the sales tax bill, a virtual legislative miracle.
The session must end by law at midnight Wednesday.
Republicans and Democrats blamed each other.
"It was a chess match between the Republicans and Democrats and the whole board crashed and I don't see the game coming back," said Rep. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles.
"I'm disappointed members have put party before our state," said Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe.
"We gave (the Democrats) everything they asked to move these bills," said Rep. Tanner Magee, a Republican.
But House Democratic Caucus Chair Gene Reynolds of Minden had a different take.
"Our Republican colleagues displayed little interest in actually passing a package to solve our problems ...," Reynold said in a statement. "Their bad behavior and irresponsibilty was rubber stamped by Republican leadership as usual. If you don't have leadership, you don't have anything."
Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Winnfield, said there was plenty of blame to go around.
"It sends a terrible message to the public when we can't find some compromise on revenue and reforms," he said.
At play was a sales tax bill from Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles, and an income tax bill from Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.
Members overwhelmingly voted against Rep. Stephen Dwight's sales tax bill 33-70, effectively killing Leger's bill as well.
Lawmakers had returned to the Capitol Sunday night for a final stab at saving a Special Session.
The spending and Medicaid reform bills hinged on whether or not the tax bills could make it out of the House.
Gov. John Bel 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.
He has since acknowledged the target will shrink to $692 million because of federal tax changes that will generate $302 million in revenue for the state.
But Edwards said the $692 million gap would still force dramatic cuts to the popular scholarship program TOPS, health care and higher education will be required if no new taxes are passed.
Following were the key remaining bills:
►House Bill 8 by Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans would raise $79 million in income taxes by eliminating taxpayers' ability to deduct previous year state income taxes and sales taxes from their current year state income taxes.
►House Bill 23 by Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles, would add a quarter-penny of state sales tax, raising about $220 million, and eliminate some current sales tax exemptions, raising about $70 million.
►House Bill 15 by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Orleans, is a constitutional amendment that would institute a new spending cap. It must be approved by voters.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1