- Associated Press - Thursday, September 7, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. John Bel Edwards held his second outreach meeting with business leaders Thursday, seeking to build support for an approach to close Louisiana’s looming $1 billion budget gap.

The Democratic governor sat down with about 30 officials in Houma, reaching out for ideas to patch the hole and to stabilize the state’s finances long-term.

“The fiscal cliff is quickly approaching, and my administration and I are doing everything possible to solicit input from broad groups of stakeholders across the entire state,” Edwards said in a statement.

The shortfall hits on July 1, when temporary taxes - mainly sales taxes - passed by lawmakers expire.

The governor says using only cuts to close the gap would devastate critical services, and he’s seeking agreement on a package of tax changes. But his previous tax proposals have been bottled up in the House, where most tax bills must start.

Any tax plans will require a special session to consider ahead of the shortfall, but Edwards said he won’t call one unless he can reach a consensus with House GOP leaders who were the primary roadblock to his previous proposals.

House Republican leaders have sought to scale back state spending, but they have not come up with any suggestions that would make deep enough reductions to offset the full budget gap.

Edwards is hoping to get buy-in for a package of tax ideas from local government and business officials, to pressure action in the House. The governor plans more regional meetings over the next week with business leaders in Alexandria, New Orleans and Shreveport. He held a similar meeting in Baton Rouge last month.

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