BATON ROUGE — Louisiana's legislative logjam showed its first signs of movement here late Sunday as bills that would raise income and sales taxes to replace expiring taxes cleared a House committee.
Those bills were tied to a deal that would allow two Medicaid reform bills addressing work requirements and eligibility to clear the Health and Welfare Committee. That was expected to happen later Sunday night.
"Today is the most important day of the session," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Gene Reynolds of Minden said in an interview with USA Today Network before the action began.
Gov. John Bel Edwards called lawmakers into this 17-day special session Monday 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 until Sunday no bills that would raise significant revenue or that would install Medicaid reforms could even make it out of their respective committees to get a full House hearing.
That changed Sunday, although not without objections.
Republicans agreed to allow Democrat Rep. Walt Leger's bill that would raise state income taxes for some people who itemize out of the Ways and Means Committee, while Democrats allowed a permanent sales tax increase out of the same panel.
The combined bills as they left committee would raise almost $400 million annually, although they both still face a fierce floor fight.
In return, Democrats allowed the Medicaid work requirements and Medicaid eligibility bills out of the Health and Welfare Committee in exchange for two Medicaid co-pay bills being shelved.
Still, not everyone went along with the horse trading.
Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, objected to the income tax bill to force a committe vote and put lawmakers on the record.
"This bill seems like an attempt to take back more of the savings coming from the federal tax changes," Seabaugh said. "I don't think it's a good idea to be raising income taxes right now."
Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, called the action allowing the two tax bills out of committee "a sad day for Louisiana. This is the best we can come up with?," he said.
One of the two Medicaid bills that were expected to also make it to the House floor were state Rep. Frank Hoffmann's bill to install what's billed as a work requirements measure for some recipients. Hoffmann is a Republican from West Monroe.
But an amendment from state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, assures no Medicaid recipient would lose benefits under any circumstances. The program would also cost about $80 million to install.
"Nobody would lose eligibility," Hoffmann said.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1