Legislators Make Money Moves in Week Six of Regular Session
Legislators filled committee schedules to the brim in week six of the Regular Session, but all eyes were on the House as representatives considered Louisiana’s annual budget and capital outlay bills, HB 1 and HB 2, including how to spend $2.8 billion in one-time money from federal pandemic aid and state budget surpluses. Read on for a breakdown of these bills as approved by the House.
Last week kicked off money talks as the House of Representatives quickly approved the state operating budget – HB 1 by Rep. Zeringue – and other supplemental funding legislation (including HB 406 and HB 592) in preparation for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1. Several of Governor Edwards’ recommendations made it into the House’s version of the budget, including increases to investment in education at all levels.
Topping out at nearly $45 billion, key appropriations in these bills include:
$1,500 K-12 teacher pay raises and $750 school support staff pay raises
$500 million to shore up Louisiana’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) Trust Fund
$500 million for the Revitalizing and Developing Infrastructure in All of Louisiana (RADIAL) Fund ($400 million for construction; $100 million for preservation and repair)
$450 million to upgrade sewer and water systems
$32 million for pay raises at Louisiana’s public higher education institutions
$32 million for early childhood initiatives
$25 million to expand healthcare workforce training
$10.5 million to fund the M.J. Foster Promise Program
The budget bills passed the House on Thursday, 4/21 and now head to the Senate.
Legislators also advanced the state’s capital outlay bill, HB 2 by Rep. Bishop, last week. Acadiana highlights outlined in the bill include:
$129 million for I-49 South from Lafayette to the Westbank Expressway
$111 million for improvements at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette)
$100 million for the I-49 Lafayette Connector
$100 million for a new I-10 bridge in Lake Charles
$41 million for improvements at Louisiana State University Eunice (LSUE)
$38 million for the Acadiana Gulf of Mexico Access Channel
$19.4 million for Vine Street Reconstruction in Opelousas
$13 million for University Avenue Corridor Improvements
$4.2 million for the Bayou Plaquemines Brulé Bridge Replacement
HB 2 passed the House 95-1 last Thursday, 4/21, and now heads to the Senate.
Last year, the Legislature passed legislation to direct a portion of revenues generated from the sales tax on motor vehicles to fund priority infrastructure projects across the state, including I-49 South. Two bills to build on this legislation – SB 266 (Ward) and SB 277 (Cortez) – passed the Senate last week. The bills would prioritize these vehicle sales tax revenues to be used as leverage for federal matching funds, with a majority of this funding being divided evenly among four megaprojects: (1) I-49 South from Lafayette to New Orleans, (2) a new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge, (3) a new Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge, and (4) I-49 North in Shreveport. By using these funds for federal match and enhancing the state's bonding capacity, SB 266 and SB 277 would put these critical megaprojects on a surer path to future completion.
Both measures passed the Senate unanimously on 4/20 and now head to the House.
Small Business Innovation
A series of bills by Rep. Willard and Rep. Pressly, HB 786, HB 795, and HB 796, were approved by the House Commerce Committee last week. The bills aim to foster greater entrepreneurship and economic diversification in Louisiana by providing state grants to small businesses that are applying for, or have received, certain federal grants: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The proposal would also provide funding to recruit out-of-state businesses that have successfully utilized SBIR and STTR grants to encourage them to come and innovate in Louisiana. All three bills were reported favorably by House Commerce on 4/18 and now head to House Appropriations.
Another effort to lower Louisiana’s severance tax on oil failed in committee last week, this time in the Senate. The measure, SB 406 by Sen. Henry, would have reduced Louisiana’s severance tax rate – the second highest in the nation – from 12.5% to 8.5% through 2025. SB 406 was rejected 6-3 by the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee on 4/18.
Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP)
1A is opposing SB 151 by Sen. Pope, a Constitutional Amendment that would enshrine Governor Edwards’ executive orders modifying the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) into the State Constitution. ITEP is one of the most effective economic development tools at Louisiana’s disposal, supporting direct and indirect job creation in our state for the last 60 years. SB 151 would weaken ITEP by locking cumbersome rules for the program into the State Constitution. The bill is awaiting debate in the full Senate.