The Louisiana Governor’s Budget Proposal Was Presented To The Legislature
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — With $2.2 billion in additional federal revenue projected for Louisiana’s upcoming budget, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to use a portion of those funds to raise teachers’ salaries and hundreds of millions of dollars in additional ones Spending is on transportation projects and is focused on funding education at all grade levels.
Edwards, who is unable to run for governor this year due to term restrictions, presented his final budget proposal to a joint legislative committee on Friday morning. The $45.7 billion spending plan for 2023-24, which lacks significant cuts, is slightly below the current operating budget of $46.1 billion.
While members of the Republican-dominated legislature got their first formal look at the spending plan this week, discussions continue and lawmakers will finalize a version of next year’s budget during the legislative session beginning April 10.
“It’s remarkable how far we’ve come together since the first few years after I took office, and I think this budget reflects that,” Edwards, who has been governor since 2016, told lawmakers. “(The budget) is focused on the people of Louisiana and the investments we can make to improve the lives of countless people across the state. It is a budget I am proud of and one I strongly encourage you to adopt.”
In addition to the additional costs, Edwards intends to close catastrophe-related debt to the federal government by allocating $100 million in FEMA reimbursements for hurricane-damage cost-sharing obligations. Also on his proposal are $84 million for purchases and major repairs to state buildings — with a significant portion for the state’s ailing prison system — $10 million for a new voting system to replace the currently outdated one, and $340 million -Dollars for the appropriate state transportation department federal funds and infrastructure grants,
“If you look at this budget, it’s investments. … We are making long-term investments in the state,” said Commissioner Jay Dardenne, chief budget architect at Edwards.
In Edwards’ year-end address in December, he emphasized a focus on education in 2023. The governor’s proposed budget would send an additional $100 million to higher education initiatives — including spending on various programs such as nursing and cybersecurity, and nearly $9 million for the state’s security initiatives K-12 school. In the spending plan, nearly $52 million would be used to offset the expiring $200 million in federal pandemic aid that was used to access early learning.
Additionally, millions would be set aside to support a $2,000 pay rise for K-12 teachers and a $1,000 pay rise for auxiliary staff, which includes teacher assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria attendants and other staff. The money would help bring Louisiana teacher salaries up to the southern average, Dardenne said.
The proposed teacher pay rise could rise by another $1,000, Dardenne said, if the state’s forecast of higher-than-expected earnings through May is accurate.
“Every year we talk about how we wish we could give (teachers) more and they deserve more, and they absolutely do. I think this year we need to make sure our budget reflects that,” said Edwards.
Louisiana’s sunny Extra Funds guidance is based on net income of $726.5 million, $928 million in excess funds from better-than-expected revenue for the current fiscal year, and the $605 million the state expects from better-than-expected revenue Revenue. However, the allocation of this money is subject to some conditions.
The estimated $726.5 million in excess funds, which will be completed later this year, cannot be used to pay for ongoing government spending. Under the Louisiana Constitution, 25% must go to the state’s “Rainy Day” fund, which will be an all-time high at $903 million. In addition, 10% have to pay off old-age debts. Dardenne said the remaining funds are likely to be split evenly — about $160,000 each — among three items: coastal protection and restoration work, construction projects, and building maintenance.
A number of one-off funds have already been allocated in the run-up to the budget discussions. Last month, $45 million of the excess funds was channeled into an insurer stimulus program in hopes of attracting more companies to write homeowner’s policies to the state. Like Florida, Louisiana is in the midst of an insurance crisis, with residents paying exorbitant premiums.
In the coming weeks, the House and Senate Budget Committees will hold hearings on Edward’s proposed spending plan.