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Edwards’ budget proposal to include no cuts, $400 pay raise for teachers

(The Center Square) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday his administration will present a budget proposal Friday that does not call for spending cuts but does include more money for education, including a $400 pay bump for teachers.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne will get into the details Friday at the Louisiana Legislature’s joint budget committee meeting.

The federal government has boosted its share of Medicaid spending through the end of the year, so state officials can use money that otherwise would pay for health care for other purposes. Edwards said that change allows state government to maintain the current level of spending even amid the ongoing pandemic-related economic weakness.

“We are in a much, much better place than we thought might be the case,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ administration wants to spend more on early childhood, K-12 and higher education, including a $400 salary increase for teachers and a $200 raise for school support workers.

The administration’s budget proposal will not include any aid that might be included in the spending package Congress is debating, Edwards said. However, Louisiana still needs federal aid, he said, noting the unemployment trust fund balance was only $6 million at last check.

Without additional aid, Louisiana businesses may be required to pay higher taxes to replenish the fund and repay money already borrowed from the federal government. The state has borrowed $133 million from the federal government to pay legally required unemployment benefits.

Edwards is a Democrat, and Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. Historically, Louisiana’s governor has tremendous control over the budget process, but the Legislature recently has shown more independence from the executive branch.

David Jacobs, Staff Reporter for the Center Square, is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.