State budget proposal advances to Senate floor
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - On Sunday, lawmakers met late in the afternoon to advance the state budget bill forward. Neither side is reportedly happy with what they have come up with, but in the world of politics, that is actually a good thing.
Setting a state budget is a tedious task for lawmakers and the process often gets personal. However, this year, money is not the problem, where to put it and how much is though. When it comes to the new Mississippi River Bridge, Gov. John Bel Edwards wanted $500 million to get it started. But, lawmakers agreed to lower that expectation.
“$200 million was kind of like the starting price for negotiating up to $350 million. And so, we kind of landed in between there at $300 million. Which it’s my understanding that will be enough to kind of moving and going,” said Sen. Regina Barrow (D).
“So, as it stands today, you have $300 million going to Baton Rouge bridge, $200 million going to I-49 South, $200 million to the Calcasieu bridge and $150 million to preservation projects though out the state,” added Senate President Page Cortez (R).
Lawmakers also agreed to a pay raise for K-12 teachers and a one-time pay raise for first responders, neither of which were what the governor was asking for.
“The teacher pay raise is locked in at $1,500 and not $2,000. The governor would like to have seen that go up to $2,000. The supplemental pay raise for police and fire is limited to one year as opposed to being a continual one, that was a concern of ours as well,” said Commissioner Jay Dardenne.
“While we do have a surplus, one of the things that the governor did tell us was that he didn’t want us spending one-time dollars on reoccurring expenses,” Sen. Barrow continued.
Lawmakers also agreed to allocate $5 million to upgrade security at the state’s juvenile detention facilities after several reports of attacks on staff, riots and breakouts.
“That one is a complex issue, but I think $5 million was a good investment but it’s a problem we’re going to continue to have to try and solve,” said Sen. Rick Ward (R).
It may not be exactly what the governor is asking for, but Commissioner Dardenne said he and Gov. Edwards will be speaking closely with senators to address any more concerns they have once they have reviewed all the amendments.
The proposal still needs to make it off the Senate floor and from there, check all the boxes on the House side, which reportedly should not be much of a problem.
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