With less than a week to go in the special session and the future of our state on the line, it looks as if there is finally starting to be some serious movement in breaking the state budget crisis gridlock. As you can imagine, there are several different schools of thought as to how our state might reduce its $900 million deficit. For the first time since the session started, it looks as if several of those schools of thought are finally merging into a possible plan for fiscal responsibility.

What has happened is the Louisiana Senate has laid their budget cards on the table, so to speak. They've offered up a plan that combines tax increases with budget cuts. This plan would close the gap in the deficit by $83 million. Senate Finance Committee chairman Eric Lafleur says it's now up to the Louisiana House to pass a few more tax bills.

So we just need 83 million more, and we’re good to go. If you could knock that out this weekend, we’d all be home on Monday.

According to a story published by the Louisiana Radio Network, this was the beginning to what might be the end of the budget crisis.  Shortly after the Senate announced their plan, the House started moving on those tax increases by passing a .22 cent increase in the state's cigarette tax. Walt Leger, who represents the New Orleans area, says the total tax on a pack of cigarettes would now be $1.08.

It’s not only necessary to help us out of this current budgetary situation we find ourselves in, but I think it has an excellent impact on particularly young people who may be attracted to using this product.

Unless you're a smoker, you can probably see the benefits that Mr. Leger is describing.

Does this mean the legislature has found some dry powder to complete the budgeting process by March 9th? No, it doesn't. Does it mean our lawmakers are closer to a solution to the budget crisis than they were when the special session started? It certainly does. But remember, this is Louisiana. Politics has a nasty way of rearing its ugly head at the last minute. The party isn't over until the gavel bangs the session closed.