Budget Sent to Governor’s Desk with Historic Infrastructure Funding
Big moves were made in Baton Rouge last week as the Legislature sent the $39 billion state budget to the Governor’s desk. Among the investments in the funding measures are a $1,500 boost to teacher pay, $84 million for early care and education, and $200 million toward completion of I-49 South. Read on for a more detailed budget breakdown.
Last week, the Senate considered the $39 billion state operating budget, HB 1 by Rep. Zeringue, and several additional funding measures in preparation for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1. Senators amended the bills and quickly sent the funding package back to the House for concurrence of the Senate amendments. After agreeing to all amendments, the House sent the funding package to Governor Edwards’ desk. The budget agreement prioritizes spending one-time federal pandemic aid and budget surplus funds on one-time expenses.
Key appropriations in these bills include:
• $500 million to shore up Louisiana’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) Trust Fund
• $1,500 K-12 teacher pay raises and $750 school support staff pay raises
• $450 million to upgrade sewer and water systems
• $84 million for early care and education initiatives
• $25 million to expand healthcare workforce training
• $21 million for higher education faculty pay raises
• $10.5 million to fund the M.J. Foster Promise Program
• $850 million for key infrastructure investments:
◦ $300 million for a new Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge
◦ $200 million for I-49 South from Lafayette to New Orleans
◦ $200 million for a new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge
◦ $150 million for preservation projects
Because the Legislature agreed on the budget so quickly, there could be time for legislators to override any line-item vetoes made by the Governor.
Last year, the Legislature passed legislation directing 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) – were reported favorably by House Appropriations last week. The bills would prioritize these vehicle sales tax revenues to be used as leverage for federal matching funds, with most 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. Using these funds for federal match and enhancing the state's bonding capacity would put these critical megaprojects on a surer path to future completion.
Both measures were reported favorably by House Appropriations on 5/16 as amended and now head to the full House for consideration.
One occupational licensing measure supported by 1A advanced last week – SB 483 by Sen. Cathey. This bill would streamline the process for individuals who are licensed in an occupation in another state to receive an occupational license in that profession when they move to Louisiana, provided both states have licenses in that occupation. SB 483 passed the Senate unanimously on 5/16 and is scheduled for a hearing in House Commerce on 5/23.
Career Readiness Data Sharing
Another 1A-supported bill that advanced last week was HB 470 by Rep. McKnight, which would support the improvement of high school career training and the Jump Start Program in Louisiana. The legislation would require the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana Workforce Commission, if given permission by a parent or legal guardian, to share and analyze student wage data to better evaluate the effectiveness of these programs, including whether the student was hired, remained employed, and advanced to higher-level roles within their field of study. This outcomes data will support continuous improvement to ensure our high school training programs are providing the best career preparation possible.
HB 470 was reported favorably by Senate Education on 5/19 and now heads to the Senate floor.
Atchafalaya Basin Bridge Speeding Fines
Senate President Page Cortez has authored SB 435 in effort to reduce speeding on the 18-mile Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. The bill designates the bridge as a “highway safety corridor” because of its high number of accidents and fatalities and would provide for installation of cameras so police can monitor whether drivers are speeding. The new safety designation would also mean that fines for violating the speed limit would be doubled – first-time violators would face fines of up to $350 and repeat offenders would face fines of up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
SB 435 was reported favorably by House Transportation on 5/16 and now heads to the House floor.
1A-supported measures on this week’s schedule include:
HB 333 by Rep. Brass, which would require the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to provide information on dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and more to counselors who are advising parents and students about early college opportunities. HB 333 is up for Senate consideration on Monday, 5/23
HB 231 by Rep. Brass, which would allow for students who have transferred from a community college to a four-year institution to be awarded an associate degree upon completion of those requirements, while continuing to work toward their bachelor’s degree. HB 231 is up for Senate consideration on Monday, 5/23
HB 681 by Speaker Clay Schexnayder. This Constitutional Amendment establishes the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission to modernize and simplify the sales tax collection system for Louisiana businesses. This common-sense reform puts Louisiana’s small businesses on a level playing field with online retailers like Amazon and Wayfair, who only have to remit sales tax to a single collector. HB 681 could come up for consideration in the Senate this week.