Where will Louisiana’s newly recognized dollars go? Agency chiefs share ideas

Local News

Louisiana’s state agency heads are competing for millions in newly recognized funds, amid concerns over keeping up with rising departmental costs.

The state’s corrections and transportation chiefs are among those eyeing dollars that a income forecasting panel unlocked last week. The Revenue Estimating Conference adopted $308 million in surplus funds, $110 million in tax collections from this year and $119 million from the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson wants legislators to put some of the extra money toward reducing his agency’s $14 billion infrastructure backlog.

“It’s not going to be a long-term sustainable piece, but it is going to support us doing our maintenance,” he told BRProud.com Monday.

Wilson also noted that federally funded projects often require matching state dollars.

“We expect to get a healthy portion to ensure that our transportation dollars at the federal level are secure,” he said.

Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc is looking for money to finance rising mandatory costs, including retirement benefits for workers.

“We’re really not asking for much,” LeBlanc said after testifying before the House Appropriations Committee. “For the most part, this is just really to maintain what we already have.”

Some of the newly adopted funds already have likely venues. Lawmakers are poised to spend $100 million on public school employee pay raises: another $1,000 for teachers and $500 for support staff.

Other advocates and state agency leaders would like to put the new money toward the TOPS tuition program, higher education, early learning and K-12 facilities, as well as coastal projects.

Talk is also circulating about how not to spend the added revenue. House Republican leaders want to save some of the money for when a temporary sales tax expires in 2025.

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