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Special budget sessions cost states

Greg Bluestein
AP Writer

Atlanta — States are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece on special legislative sessions whose chief purpose, ironically, is to trim more funding from their eroding budgets.

Analysts expect the number of special sessions, a rarity in many states, to soar as governors are left with little choice but to herd lawmakers back to statehouses to shed combined billions from the states’ budgets.

“The problem that many states are having now is that they haven’t faced extremes like this before,” said Brenda Erickson, a senior research analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “And in many cases they don’t have any options. They have to do it.”

At least 15 states have already called legislators back for another round of work. Special sessions are a possibility in five others.

The need for extra lawmaking is a familiar trend during troubled economic times. But the special sessions pose a dilemma for many state executives: It often costs tens of thousands of dollars a day to corral legislators back, an unappealing prospect that many state executives say can’t avoid.

“They’re in the hardest spot they can practically be in,” Erickson said of governors in fiscally strapped states.

“And they’re stuck: They took an oath to uphold the state constitution, and the constitution requires them to come back in and fix it.”

AP Writer Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this report.

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