BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The legislature is coming to some compromises over how big teacher pay raises will be and how much money will go towards a new Mississippi River Bridge.
On Sunday, the Senate Finance Committee accepted hundreds of amendments to the budget. One of them solidified the teacher pay raises at $1,500 instead of increasing it to $2,000, with the extra money in the budget forecasted by the Revenue Estimating Committee, like the governor wanted. Some lawmakers fear too many new recurring payments will be unsustainable in the future.
“We had a lot of recurring revenue. We wanted to ensure that we didn’t put it towards new programs, that we put it to one-time expenses,” Senate President Page Cortez said. “We know that the influx of federal dollars that are coming in are going to go away at some point. We don’t know if inflation is going to take away some of our recurring state general fund.”
It also will decrease the anticipated raises for higher education professors from 5% to 3%. But it leaves money for “cancer-related” positions to help with recruitment.
“We hope to have the revenue stable enough next year to be able to do it again, to give another raise. We are also asking that the local partners participate. We’re not the only ones paying teachers. The MFP is a portion of the overall budget,” President Cortez said.
Another major hurdle was deciding how much to put towards a new Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge. The final decision came to $300 million to be put in a mega project account. This is less than the $500 million Governor John Bel Edwards has been pushing for all session. A new bill by the Senate President makes sure part of the vehicle tax goes towards four major projects in the state. Last year, a bill passed that would move 60% of the vehicle sales tax into transportation, this takes it a step further to make sure the funds only get put towards the Baton Rouge Bridge, Calcasieu River Bridge, the I-49 Leverage, and I-10 improvements.
“When you combine all those things together I think we will have what we need financially to start the process of moving forward with a new bridge,” Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, said.
They also shuffled an additional $100 million towards the Calcasieu River Bridge, making it a total of $200 million for the project.
President Cortez said not everyone is happy with this budget but they’ve come to a lot of good compromises to fund a lot of different projects without putting the state’s financial situation in danger. The budget has one more stop on the Senate floor where it will be voted on and then passed back to the House for concurrence before it makes it to the governor’s desk.