NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Higher tax revenue is helping add $350 million to Louisiana’s general fund budget for the fiscal year that ends at the end of next month and $104 million in projected revenue for the year that starts July 1.
The state Revenue Estimating Conference adopted those projections Monday in Baton Rouge during a meeting at the Capitol.
The higher revenue projections will renew debates between Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Republican-dominated Legislature over budget priorities.
For instance, the proposed 2022-2023 budget moving through the Legislature already raises teacher pay by about $1,500 a year. Edwards has said he’d like to see the raises pushed up to $2,000. Edwards has called for an increase in state supplemental pay for local law enforcement officers.
Underlying Monday’s projections and the budget debates are uncertainties over the future of the national economy. Deborah Vivien, of the state Legislative Fiscal Office and Manfred Dix, of the Division of Administration under the governor, both said they were being cautious.
Vivien said her projections take into account slower growth. However, she’s not predicting a recession, citing signs of peaking inflation and Federal Reserve efforts to curb inflation without tipping the economy into recession. “I’m predicting a soft landing,” she said.
The governor released a statement on the conference findings:
“The increased revenue forecast by the Revenue Estimating Conference this morning, an additional $349 million for the current budget year and $104 million for the next fiscal year, is great news for the people of Louisiana. It provides a clear pathway for increasing teacher pay and providing the down payment necessary for the new Mississippi River Bridge that will benefit our entire state,” said Gov. Edwards.
“These new projections mean that the pay increases I’ve proposed for teachers ($1,500) and support personnel ($750) could rise to $2,000 and $1,000 respectively. To pay for the well-deserved pay hikes, it would require $50 million of the $104 million increase in recurring dollars estimated for next year. But this will only happen with legislative approval, which has been my hope and expectation all along. Our teachers and support staff are the backbone of our education system, and we have all learned in these last three years especially that they are valuable beyond measure. While they certainly deserve more, this would be another step toward getting them closer to the Southern Regional Average.
"Equally important is letting the federal government and private business know that we are serious about our commitment to building the new Mississippi River bridge. The $349 million is one time money that should be used for one time expenditures such as infrastructure. The support for the bridge is there and, without question now, so is the money to get this project started. Once again, legislative approval is necessary to make this happen. It is vital to our economy, serving as a connector to the world for big and small businesses, various industries, employees, visitors, and so much more. Our education and infrastructure systems have long been plagued by funding issues, and we now have the opportunity to make significant investments in both that will be transformational for our state and our citizens. I encourage lawmakers to take full advantage of where we are today and where we want Louisiana to be for future generations. The seeds we plant today will yield the harvest we all want in years to come.”