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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards thanks legislators and staff for perservering through three special sessions to pass the budget bill Sunday. HB-1 was passed in the Senate and the House concurred, effectively passing the budget bill.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was in quite a jovial mood Sunday night during a news conference in which he touted the Legislature passing a budget for 2019 that fully funds the state's enormously popular TOPS scholarship program.

With a massive budget shortfall staring the state in the face, TOPS was a point of bickering among lawmakers and a high-dollar, mainly discretionary spending item in the state's budget.

On Sunday, senators gave final passage to a sales tax renewal bill that was the key piece to funding TOPS and forming a budget.

"I'm sorry, Alabama, but you're not gonna be picking off our best and brightest," Edwards said.

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The governor couldn't resist adding a football jab either.

"And I happen to believe in early November 2018 they're going to come over here for a butt-whippin' too," he added.

More than 50,000 students are in the TOPS program.

The program pays for tuition at a four-year school for any high school graduate who reaches a 2.5 grade-point average and 20 ACT college entrance exam score. Higher-performing students receive additional stipends, while other students get aid to attend community and technical colleges. The average yearly tuition rate in Louisiana is $5,600.

The Associated Press' Melinda Delsatte contributed to this report.