BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards confirmed Thursday that the state collected around $300 million more from taxes than expected for the previous fiscal year.
“There were more jobs, people brought home better paychecks, and business were more profitable," Edwards said. "This is the kind of progress we want to see.”
The Revenue Estimating Conference has not recognized the revenue yet, so the exact value of the surplus is not clear.
Some Republican lawmakers, who are often at odds with Edwards, questioned whether the legislature needed to extend .45 percent of the state sales tax in the third special session of 2018 because of the surplus.
“Were we fed fuzzy numbers to advance the governor’s tax and spend agenda?” Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, asked in a tweet.
“On its face, it is just ridiculous that someone isn’t happy with me because the economy is performing better,” Edwards retorted in a news conference. “This is good news, and any attempt to spin it another way is a pretty desperate attempt by people trying to save face.”
More than $1 billion in taxes were set to expire this July, creating a budget deficit for next fiscal year. Republicans and Democrats compromised to end the budget debate that plagued the state for a decade.
The extension of the state’s sales tax has no bearing on last year’s revenue, and Edwards said Thursday that the state’s sales tax revenue actually decreased.
The surplus is driven by unexpected collections from personal and corporate income and oil and gas taxes, Edwards said.
Edwards added that he and lawmakers could not anticipate the budget surplus. Because tax revenue is usually dictated by the state of Louisiana’s economy, a surplus is not guaranteed to recur.
At least 10 percent of the surplus must be used to pay off state debt, and another 25 percent must go toward the state’s rainy day fund.
The remaining dollars can go towards state construction projects, coastal restoration, and deferred maintenance on state buildings, like those on college campuses.
Edwards said he and his staff have not created a spending priority list for the money yet, and added that he’ll consult with members of the legislature before doing so.
“Surplus cannot, and should not, be used to grow government,” Edwards said. “But it does make it possible to address the infrastructure needs that we have across the state of Louisiana.”