Governor’s proposed budget includes teachers’ pay raise

Published 12:29 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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On Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards highlighted his budget priorities for the next fiscal year — which include investments in education at every level, including at least a $1,500 pay raise for teachers, and new investments in infrastructure across Louisiana.

“After inheriting the largest budget deficit in Louisiana history, my administration worked with the legislature to stabilize Louisiana’s revenues and grow our economy,” Edwards said. “In previous budget years, we’ve worked to make small, incremental investments in critical priorities. Today, I’m announcing our most significant new investments yet —  focusing on education at all levels, including at least a $1,500 pay raise for teachers, funded with recurring state general fund. This budget proposal also includes significant new investments in infrastructure, using non-recurring revenue from surplus, excess, and American Rescue Plan dollars.

“Louisiana has faced many hurdles and setbacks over the past several years, but we are on the precipice of a recovery and resurgence across all of our communities if we wisely invest our budget surplus and federal funding resources on making long-term projects that maybe once seemed like a dream — new bridges in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, as well as the completion of the I-49 Lafayette Connector and investments in the much needed rebuilding of bridges in rural Louisiana — a reality,” Edwards said. “We have a historic opportunity to improve life in communities across Louisiana, to fix problems relating to sewer and water which plague many of our cities and towns, and to strengthen critical infrastructure that will protect and support our state’s future.

“This is a budget I am proud of, this is a budget the Louisiana people can be proud of, and this is a budget I believe the Legislature can proudly support.”

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne was scheduled to formally present the budget to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

The Office of the Governor provided a summation of the budget priorities, in a press release:

Improving Louisiana’s infrastructure

The governor’s budget proposal includes more than $1.1 billion in funding for critical infrastructure, including $500 million for a new Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge, $100 million for I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles, $100 million for the I-49 Lafayette Connector, and $500 million for water and sewer improvements statewide.

These critical state investments are on top of federal funding Louisiana is receiving through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. Since the start of January, Edwards has already announced more than $3 billion in federal infrastructure investment in Louisiana, including a $206 million investment in Louisiana’s bridges in this fiscal year. For rural bridges specifically, the state will be able to invest no less than $60 million per year for five years, allowing as many as 100 bridges in rural Louisiana to be rehabilitated or rebuilt every year, the majority of which are in North Louisiana.

“Critical infrastructure, like roads, bridges, sewer and water projects benefit our communities and will create economic opportunity across Louisiana. When taken alongside previous state commitments to transportation and federal investments through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this funding will go a long way in improving the lives and livelihoods of our people,” Edwards said.

Increasing investments in education

The governor’s budget invests at all levels of education across the state, from funding better opportunities for Louisiana’s youngest learners to increasing salaries for K-12 teachers, support staff and higher education faculty.

The budget proposal includes $148.4 million for K-12 teacher and staff pay raises. The proposed teacher pay raise of $1500 is significantly higher than the raise teachers received in the current year, and the fifth proposed by the Edwards administration. In addition, the governor supports using additional revenues recognized by the Revenue Estimating Conference later this spring to increase these proposed raises for teachers and staff.

“Louisiana’s educators have always deserved more pay — but the coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted the need for high quality, well-teachers at every level of education in Louisiana,” Edwards said.

In higher education, the governor’s proposal dedicates $31.7 million for higher education faculty pay raises, in addition to an increase of $97.2 million in other funding increases. The governor’s budget proposal includes an increase of $5 million for Title IX offices across the state, $15-million increase in GO Grants, $25 million into the Higher Education Initiatives fund. The proposal also includes depositing $10.5 million into the M.J. Foster Promise Program Fund, which provides financial support for non-traditional students to earn credentials from community and technical colleges that align to high-demand jobs in growing industry sectors across Louisiana.

For early childhood education, the governor is proposing a $43.4 million increase, which includes more than a $17-million increase for the LA-4 Early Childhood program. In addition, the governor will be recommending a significant investment into the Early Childhood Education Fund.

Supporting Louisiana’s businesses and unemployed workers

The governor’s budget proposal also dedicates $550 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to replenish Louisiana’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which had a historically high fund balance prior to the global coronavirus pandemic. If the fund is not restored to a balance of $750 million by September of this year, taxes will automatically be raised on businesses to replenish the fund.

“The pandemic placed incredible strain on our unemployment trust fund, and this investment will help ensure that unemployment benefits do not drop and also avoid a tax increase on businesses when they need it the least,” Edwards said.

Using one-time money for one-time expenses

One of the key tenets of the administration’s budget strategy is using one-time dollars for expenses that do not reoccur each year. By dedicating excess funding, pandemic recovery aid, and other one-time dollars to one-time investments, the state of Louisiana avoids creating funding issues for expenses in future budget years.

“Our pledge is to craft a responsible budget that doesn’t create funding problems in future years because it aligns one-time funding with one-time expenditures,” Edwards said. “While we are blessed to have budget surpluses and ample federal funding this year, it would be unwise to dedicate these dollars to recurring expenses, which is why our budget focuses them on longer-term investments.”