Louisiana leaders remain at an impasse over how much money the state can spend in the coming year, after a House Republican leader – for the fourth time in as many months -- blocked the Edwards administration’s push for an improved outlook.
House Speaker Taylor Barras was again the lone hold-out in rejecting a boosted projection that would help Edwards pay for his much-touted teacher pay raises when he presents his executive budget proposal later this month.
“My concern and my heartburn has been with the state general fund," said Barras, R-New Iberia.
The four-person Revenue Estimating Conference, which relies on a team of state economists for advice, must unanimously agree to any changes in the state projection. LSU economist Jim Richardson, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, all agreed to the increase, which would have made nearly $150 million in additional revenue available for spending priorities in the coming year.
The panel that decides how much money the state can spend remains at an impasse over efforts to improve state revenue projections, after House…
Planning for the budget that will take effect July 1 begins with the governor’s executive outline, which he will present Feb. 22. The Legislature, which starts its 2019 session on April 8, then hashes out a final spending plan before the session ends June 6.
“I believe we have time to come back and make that state general fund adjustment in a timely manner,” Barras said.
But Alario said he worried that the REC’s failure to act on the new projection could threaten the teacher pay raises.
“I want to do all I can to support that effort,” Alario said.
Without discussion, a bipartisan and bicameral panel of Louisiana lawmakers on Thursday acknowledged that the state budget projection won't be…
Some have accused House Republicans, who have been frequent Edwards foes, of intentionally blocking the upgrade so he won’t be able to take credit for pay raises without sacrificing cuts elsewhere in his draft. Barras has denied that he’s playing politics.
Edwards, who is currently running for a second term against two Republican challengers, has made the pay raises his No. 1 priority heading into his year’s session. He’s calling for an increase of $1,000 for teachers and $500 for school support staff.
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The state relies on two economists’ predictions to set the forecast – one who works for the administration and one who works for the Legislature.
Both have repeatedly predicted that the state will take in more revenue than the last estimate adopted in June.
“We looked at the numbers from top to bottom,” said Manfred Dix, the administration economist.
Richardson, who has been on the revenue estimating panel longer than any other member, described the proposed projected increases as “very, very good.”
“I’d say it’s a conservative estimate that the state can live with,” he said.
But Barras said he is worried that the state will experience another deficit, even though its finished the past two budget cycles with a surplus.
“We have created these surpluses by actions we’ve taken, and I’m certainly not convinced that it’s driven by economic activity at this point,” he said.