BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Gov. John Bel Edwards introduced his budget proposal on Monday afternoon. The proposal highlighted investments in education at every level, $1.1 billion for critical infrastructure, replenishing unemployment insurance trust fund, and using one-time money for one-time expenses.
“After inheriting the largest budget deficit in Louisiana history, my administration worked with the legislature to stabilize Louisiana’s revenues and grow our economy. In previous budget years, we’ve worked to make small, incremental investments in critical priorities. Today, I’m announcing our most significant new investments yet – focusing on education at all levels, including at least a $1500 pay raise for teachers, funded with recurring state general fund,” Edwards said. “This budget proposal also includes significant new investments in infrastructure, using non-recurring revenue from surplus, excess, and American Rescue Plan dollars.”
In higher education, the governor’s proposal dedicates $31.7 million for faculty pay raises, in addition to an increase of $97.2 million in other funding increases. The budget proposal includes an increase of $5 million for Title IX offices across the state, a $15 million increase in GO Grants, and $25 million into the Higher Education Initiatives fund. The proposal also includes depositing $10.5 million into the MJ Foster Promise Program Fund, which provides financial support for non-traditional students to earn credentials from community and technical colleges that align to high-demand jobs in growing industry sectors across Louisiana.
“If ever there was a time to invest in education, it’s now. I think we know how significantly the pandemic has adversely affected education at all levels,” Gov. Edwards said. “We know the burden has been placed on our teachers, support staff, paraprofessionals, faculty, and so forth.”
For early childhood education in Louisiana, Edwards proposed a $43.4 million increase, which includes more than a $17 million increase for the LA-4 Early Childhood program.
For the state’s infrastructure, Edwards announced a proposal of $1.1 billion. He proposed $500 million for a new Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge, $100 million for Calcasieu River Bridge, $100 million for the I-49 Lafayette Corridor, and $500 million for water and sewage improvements.
“Louisiana has faced many hurdles and setbacks over the past several years, but we are on the precipice of a recovery and resurgence across all of our communities if we wisely invest our budget surplus and federal funding resources on making long-term projects that maybe once seemed like a dream – new bridges in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, as well as the completion of the I-49 Lafayette Connector and investments in the much needed rebuilding of bridges in rural Louisiana – a reality,” Edwards said. “We have a historic opportunity to improve life in communities across Louisiana, to fix problems relating to sewer and water which plague many of our cities and towns, and to strengthen critical infrastructure that will protect and support our state’s future.”
Edwards’ budget proposal also dedicates $550 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to replenish Louisiana’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. According to the governor’s office, if the fund is not restored to a balance of $750 million by September of this year, taxes will automatically be raised on businesses to replenish the fund.
“Our pledge is to craft a responsible budget that doesn’t create funding problems in future years because it aligns one-time funding with one-time expenditures. While we are blessed to have budget surpluses and ample federal funding this year, it would be unwise to dedicate these dollars to recurring expenses, which is why our budget focuses them on longer-term investments,” Edwards said.
For more information about Edwards’ budget proposal, click here.
The Legislative Committee on the Budget will meet Tuesday to go over the specifics of the budget. Tune in to Your Local Election Headquarters for the details.