BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – On Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards unveiled his final executive budget ahead of the regular legislative session. The $45.7 billion budget includes a number of sweeping investments as the state revenue continues to come in over estimates leaving legislators with millions in excess and surplus to spend.
“We are in so much better shape today,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
He discussed the difference in the first budget he had to bring to the legislature in his first term when the state was faced with a $2 billion deficit and painful cuts were made across agencies.
Among the major investments the governor looks to make with this budget, teachers and support staff are slated to get another pay raise. Edwards’ budget proposes a $2,000 pay raise for teachers and $1,000 for support staff. If tax revenue continues to roll in as it has in recent months, he plans to ask the Revenue Estimating Committee to increase the teacher raises to $3,000 in May before the end of the session.
“The budget is balanced based on the Revenue Estimating Conference forecast. Once again there are no gimmicks, there’s no accounting tricks, no fund sweeps, no unrealistic assumptions,” Gov. Edwards said.
Fiscal Year ‘22 ended with higher-than-expected tax collections. It is leaving the state with $726 million in surplus. Under the state’s constitution, 25% must be put into the state’s rainy day fund otherwise known as the Budget Stabilization Fund. This investment would put the fund at $903 million, which is the highest it has ever been. There will also be investments in Revenue Stabilization from the corporate tax revenue putting it at a record $1 billion. The money left over will account for investments into the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority as well as the Department of Transportation and Development.
Fiscal Year ‘23 has an excess of an estimated $925 million. Already $45 million has been pulled out for the Insure Louisiana Incentive Fund, which was appropriated during the special session called in January.
While the revenue continues to grow, the administration is hesitant to grow the budget’s recurring expenses. The excess is aimed at one-time investments instead.
DOTD will be getting a major investment of $340 million to be used in their budget for matches to federal grants. Commissioner Jay Dardenne also said many of the construction projects have been coming in over the original estimated cost due to inflation. This additional money in their budget will help them cover the costs so construction projects do not have to be delayed.
The overall operating budget has seen an increase of $608 million that can be used to put into ongoing expenses. This is where the teacher pay raises will be coming out of to ensure they can be covered in the future, according to Dardenne. Higher education faculty pay raises are proposed at $56 million, equating to about a 2% raise. Early childhood education is slated to get $51.7 million.
Edwards is also proposing $23.4-million be put toward a 20% supplemental pay to law enforcement. This would make the one-time payment approved last year permanent. K through 12 schools will also be getting $8.97 million for an increase in school security. Edwards also tackled the subject of a minimum wage increase. The governor said, “$7.25 an hour, it’s unacceptable, it was unacceptable in 2016, I think it’s downright immoral in 2023.” Edwards plans to up the minimum wage for state employees to $10 an hour.
TOPS will be fully funded as well as the Department of Children and Family Services. Dardenne said DCFS is funded even for all the vacant positions they have at this time to better help them fill the critical roles.
The overall budget looks to increase or fully fund many of the state’s agencies. You can read through all the details of the governor’s proposed budget HERE. It is subject to be debated and changed by lawmakers in the regular session that begins on April 10.