When lawmakers rushed to pass several important bills in the waning minutes of the legislative session that ended Thursday evening, they approved a slate of funding measures that spend the state’s extra money on a wide range of areas including coastal restoration, highways, legal judgments and prisons.
Along with the $30 billion state budget, lawmakers easily passed the other budget bills — called the supplemental and funds bills, which will spend a surplus of $308 million from last fiscal year and an excess of $110 million from the current fiscal year.
The state constitution requires the state to spend “surplus” dollars — extra money left over when the state closes its books on a budget year — on certain areas. Those requirements will send $77 million to the state’s rainy day fund and about $30.8 million paying down pension debt, or unfunded accrued liability, at the Teachers Retirement System and LASERS, the retirement system for state employees.
Beyond that, $55 million will go to coastal protection, and the rest of last year’s surplus — about $145 million — will go to the state’s construction budget, funding things like maintenance of state buildings and highways.
With the current year’s excess of $110 million, lawmakers decided to send the largest share — $25 million — to pay down FEMA debt.
The rest will go to a long list of spending priorities. Lawmakers will spend $12.4 million on judgments, or money owed to those who have won lawsuits against the state, more than $18 million on the Department of Corrections, and $7.8 million on a new software system for state government.
Other entities receiving a piece of the pie are the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Jobs for Americas Graduates and the LSU Center for River Studies, along with state agencies like the Department of Children and Family Services and the Louisiana Department of Health.
The supplemental bill was one of several budget bills that lawmakers worked throughout the session to reach a compromise on.
The final deal on the supplemental bill saw relatively minor changes, with lawmakers restoring a $2.3 million to the casino support fund in New Orleans, after initially providing the money to the judiciary.
Along with those bills, the Legislature passed standstill budgets for the Legislature and judiciary, both of which are sitting on cash surpluses of their own.
Lawmakers also passed a $30 billion state budget for next fiscal year that funds teacher pay raises of $1,000 and includes new money for early childhood education, colleges and other areas. The House and Senate both passed the slate of budget bills in the final hour of the session.