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Louisiana Legislature puts finishing touches on nearly $40B budget

The Louisiana Legislature finalized budget bills on Thursday that authorize nearly $40 billion in spending for the state’s annual operating budget, and roughly another $8 billion on construction, courts and other priorities.

The House voted 88-7 in a final concurrence vote on Thursday to approve House Bill 1, the nearly $40 billion state operating budget for fiscal year that begins July 1.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, includes many of the priorities outlined in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive budget, such as a $1,500 raise for teachers and $750 raise for school support staff, spending for childhood education, rate increases for Medicaid providers and a supplemental pay increase for local police and first responders.

“The total budget coming back from the Senate sits at over $47 billion, and House Bill 1 accounts for $39.8 billion of that total. House Bill 1 also accounts for $10 billion of the $10.9 billion state general fund budgeted through state government,” Zeringue said.

The bill covers spending for over $1 billion of remaining American Rescue Plan dollars, including $500 million into the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, as well as $450 million for water and sewer work.

The teacher and school support staff raises increased the education budget by $148 million, while another $104 million went to higher education faculty raises. Lawmakers spent $53 million in rate increases for those working with the state’s most vulnerable, $37 million to repair and replace state-owned buildings and assets, and $25 million to increase supplemental pay for police and first responders by $100 per month.

HB 1 includes “full funding for cameras in special education classrooms,” Zeringue said, along with $32 million for early childhood initiatives. Smaller spends included $10 million to establish an early childhood support and services program and $5 million to launch a book delivery program to children.

An additional $170 million went to deposits for one-time initiatives: $93 million for roads, $33 million for Hurricane Ida recovery, $30 million to settle a decades-old judgment and $15 million for a tourism marketing campaign.

Additions to the bill in the Senate included the supplemental pay increases for police and first responders, $5 million for enhanced tourism promotion, $4.3 million to add staff with the Department of Children and Family Services for foster care and human trafficking, $19.4 million for rate increases for developmental disability providers, increased starting pay for security guards, money for substance abuse facilities and $3 million for state police training, among other expenses.

The House also approved House Bill 2, sponsored by Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, with a unanimous concurrence vote to finalize the state’s capital outlay budget of $8.7 billion. The House also voted unanimously to approve House Bill 437, sponsored by Zeringue, to fund the $195 million budget for judicial agencies, an increase of more than $11 million.

Yet another bill in the budget package, House Bill 592, sponsored by Zeringue, spends about $1.6 billion in extra funds from the current fiscal year that ends on June 30. The House concurrence vote for HB 592 was 92-2. The extra funds went to transportation projects, local funding, higher education initiatives, disaster assistance grants, work on public buildings, state software upgrades, wildlife management, economic development programs and other uses.

The bills now head to Edwards for his consideration.

This article was originally posted on Louisiana Legislature puts finishing touches on nearly $40B budget

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