Those chillier winds you are feeling are the budget prospects for the state, and the shivers are already shooting through officials trying to plan ahead for 2018.
With more than a billion dollars in "temporary" tax increases passed in 2016 to fill the hole left by former Gov. Bobby Jindal, state agencies including colleges and universities, and public schools, had a bit of reprieve. But with temporary taxes expiring on June 30 and negotiations on replacement revenues going poorly for months, there is definitely a chill in the air.
The latest: Gov. John Bel Edwards is unlikely to recommend a hike in basic state aid for public schools, an aide to the governor said Tuesday.
Donald Songy, the governor's education adviser, noted the potential for $1.5 billion in unpaid bills coming due in the financial year beginning July 1.
Thus, Songy told a panel of educators and officials that "it doesn't look very likely at all" that Edwards' budget proposal will include an increase in what the state spends per public school student.
Obviously, that's hardly the desired position for Edwards, whose wife is a teacher and whose political supporters include teacher unions and many local school board members. But without broad agreement, across party lines, the governor isn't in a position to promise more money for schools without the revenues to pay for any increases.
Lawmakers and governors Jindal and Edwards have found some new money for schools: including $69 million in 2013; $44 million in 2015 and $20 million in 2016 from other state appropriations. Those were outside the basic state aid program, called the MFP formula. Last year Edwards did win approval for boosting dual enrollment spending by $10 million and $8 million for high-needs students.
Not good enough in a $3.7 billion tab for hundreds of thousands of students. State spending per student has risen only once since 2008.
State Superintendent of Education John White told the same task force that his talks with the Edwards administration officials indicate "this is going to be a very difficult year financially."
This is an understatement.
Standards in schools are rising but systems are often strapped for new money because of rising costs for retirement and insurance for employees. Local tax propositions often face uncertain futures; big proposals for new school taxes failed in the last couple of years in Jefferson and Lafayette parishes.
Going forward, Washington-style gridlock between the parties in Louisiana's Legislature may mean that school boards, like it or not, can't count on state aid going up and instead will have to face the music with local taxpayers.