Gov. Edwards’ office unveils $30B ‘wish list’ budget outline

Local News

A budget proposal from Louisiana’s governor recommends boosts to state education, juvenile justice and health care — though it hinges on money still unavailable.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office unveiled its wish list Friday, which proposes spending $100 million on pay raises for public educators. Roughly 60,000 teachers would get a $1,000 bump, while school support staff would receive an additional $500. Public colleges and universities would receive another $11 million, while the TOPS tuition program would be funded fully.

“Hopefully this sends a message to plus-up higher education in a meaningful way,” the governor’s Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told legislators. “Hopefully you’ll be able to do that in the budget that is finally enacted.”

Edwards’ “aspirational” outline assumes that the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference will recognize more than $130 million in added revenue. While state economists expect tax collections to rise, House Speaker Taylor Barras — a member of the forecasting panel — has yet to agree on the rosier outlook.

The governor’s spending goals hinge most immediately on Barras, the lone holdout in a four-member group that requires unanimity to recognize income. The state is constitutionally barred from spending money not acknowledged by the panel. The conference has not approved a revenue outlook since June 2018.

Barras underscored his caution Friday, telling Dardenne that he doesn’t want to promise agencies money that may not come.

“The later we wait in the year, the better we get,” he said. “The margin of error gets smaller and smaller.”

Barras maintains that he will reconsider the forecast by spring, ahead of the fiscal year’s July 1 start date. State legislators will begin their annual session April 8.

(See the governor’s budget recommendations here.)

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