BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration called for significant funding increases for children, education, and juvenile justice in their spending presentation to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB) Friday.
K-12 education accounts for the most expensive proposed funding increase. It would cost more than $75 million to give 60,000 teachers a $1,000 raise, another $25 million to give a $500 raise to classroom aides, janitors, and lunch servers, plus another $38 million to increase per pupil spending by $54.
But these proposals do not come in the form of a traditional budget. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the state’s chief financial officer, said the administration cannot legally offer an official executive budget until the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) updates the state’s budget forecast.
“Our decision, based upon the law, practicality, and reality, was to give you this proposed budget that looks everything like an executive budget,” Dardenne said. “It will give you every opportunity to debate the budget beginning immediately.”
For months, the state’s top economists have insisted there will be a surplus of between $90 and $150 million available to spend because of an improving economy. The state essentially collected more in income taxes than it expected to, meaning Louisianans are making more money.
The 4-person committee has been unable to reach required unanimity on a projection since its last forecast adoption in June. The only holdout has been House republican leadership.
Because the Republicans are blocking the recognition of additional revenue, the governor’s first official budget would have to use 8-month-old, lower revenue numbers. Constitutionally, the state cannot spend more money than is recognized by the REC.
“My efforts on the REC, whether they come across as sincere or not, is to improve that record of what we’ve experienced on the REC,” House speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, said, referencing midyear cuts the lawmakers have had to identify because of REC misses in prior years.
“The later we wait in the year, the better we get,” he continued. “The margin of error gets smaller and smaller.”
Dardenne said Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, will carry a bill that mirrors the governor’s proposal during the session. House appropriations chairman Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, is expected to author his own version as House Bill 1, the instrument reserved for the official budget.
You can view the administration’s full proposal here.