2020 VISION: Gov. Edwards casts education hopes, but faces forecast snag

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Gov. John Bel Edwards wants a second annual round of teacher pay raises, but he faces second round of gridlock within Louisiana’s income forecasting panel.

The governor told reporters Wednesday he will base a 2020-21 budget plan on revenue outlooks rejected by House Republican leaders, who claim it’s too soon to tell whether the state will have the money to spend. The disagreement resembles the one that played out earlier this year.

“We won’t have any choice but to proceed in a fashion that was very similar to what we did earlier this year,” Edwards said in his end-of-year remarks at the State Capitol. “That’s unfortunate.”

The four-member Revenue Estimating Conference’s most recent discord leaves $103 million in limbo next year. Three panelists agreed to recognize the added funds, while the fourth — House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, on behalf of House Speaker Taylor Barras — rejected adoption.

“The process is always going to be difficult,” Henry said shortly before casting his opposition vote Dec. 12. “It should be difficult when you’re spending billions of dollars in state money.”

Edwards hopes incoming Republican leaders will agree to adopt the projections. The Democratic governor has already met with frontrunners in next month’s vote for House Speaker and Senate President, though whether they would dislodge any gridlock remains unclear.

“The only thing I ask for is leadership that doesn’t pursue hyperpartisanship and camouflage it, and what’s really going on is obstruction,” Edwards said.

The governor expects Republican leaders will eventually recognize the rosier estimates, much like they did on projections this past spring.

In addition to pitching teacher pay raises, Edwards said he wants to boost investments to higher education and early childhood programs.

“Education cures a lot of ills,” he said.

The governor plans to present his spending “wish list” in February.

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