The House gave final legislative approval to a bundle of budget bills on May 19 that include funds for $1,500 pay raises for K-12 teachers and $300 million for a new Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge.
The Legislature found itself in a unique position this year. For years, the state faced budget problems, at times teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff. Due to hundreds of millions of dollars in increased state revenues and billions in federal pandemic aid, Louisiana is flush with cash, giving lawmakers a once-in-a-political lifetime chance to fund their priorities.
Included in the overall allocations is $300 million for a new Mississippi River bridge. The budget also includes funds for pay raises for state employees. Public school teachers are each in line for a $1,500 raise, alongside a $750 raise for support staff.
Higher education faculty will be receiving $21 million for raises, about 40% less than the Board of Regents requested. That would be enough for most faculty members to receive 3% raises, though each institution will decide how to divide up its share of money.
Also getting raises are judges, healthcare workers and correctional workers.
The Legislature also set aside $100 million was for pet projects of lawmakers.
The bills put money back into the depleted unemployment benefits trust fund and the state’s rainy day fund.
While most of the debate centered on House Bill 1, which provides for the state operating budget, the House also concurred on several other budget bills, including House Bill 406, which provides for supplemental appropriations and House Bill 2, which provides for capital outlays.
— Piper Hutchinson, LSU Manship School News Service