The Revenue Estimating Conference’s latest forecast, issued on Thursday, confirms that Louisiana’s economy continues to grow at a strong and sustainable pace. The revenue resulting from that growth is more than enough to provide meaningful raises for classroom teachers, maintain programs for our youngest learners and address Louisiana’s long-neglected infrastructure needs.
The REC recognized $806 million in new general fund revenue that is available to spend over the next 14 months on recurring programs or one-time needs. Additionally, the forecasting panel recognized $737 million that will go to a new state savings account, the Revenue Stabilization Fund, where it can be used for future construction projects or to help the state during a financial pinch. With these new dedications, Louisiana will have approximately $2.7 billion set aside for the future – by far the most in the state’s history.
Still, some legislators are refusing to take yes for an answer. Instead of using these resources where they’re needed most, they are proposing to steer money into state pension plans as a way to avoid a vote to exceed an expenditure cap. Others want to add money to the state’s rainy-day fund as a way to trigger automatic, across-the-board tax cuts that would lead to budget shortfalls and program cuts in the future.
There is a clear and responsible path forward: The Legislature should raise the expenditure cap. That way it can use the available, recurring revenue to give all classroom teachers the $3,000 pay raise they’ve earned, restore funding for early childhood programs so that young families can continue to access high-quality care, and start chipping away at Louisiana’s long backlog of repairs and infrastructure improvements.
Or, as Commissioner Jay Dardenne succinctly noted, you shouldn’t prepay your mortgage if your roof is leaking.