john bel

Gov. John Bel Edwards

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration is proposing spending almost $285 million more in the next fiscal year than in the current one, largely to boost funding for education.

Total spending would be $32.1 billion, compared to $31.9 billion in the current year. Net new spending in the general fund, which is the part of the budget over which lawmakers have the most control, would be about $128 million for a total of about $10.1 billion.

“It’s just a starting point,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said Friday of the budget proposal. The administration is not calling for higher taxes or fees.

About $66 million more would be spent on K-12 education. Though Edwards has said he wants to continue the teacher pay raises begun last year to raise salaries to the regional average, the current proposal doesn’t dedicate money to raises specifically.

The administration wants to spend $25 million more on early childhood education and about $40.6 million more for higher education, counting an increase to the TOPS scholarship program.

Juvenile justice would get an additional $3.1 million. Increases mandated by the legislature last year, which includes pay bumps for judges and prosecutors and a higher per diem for sheriffs housing state prisoners, total about $23 million.

The administration is proposing about $45.6 million in cuts. About $24 million of that total would be distributed across various agencies, while the rest would come from reductions in health care administration.

The spending plan presented to legislators Friday is not an official “executive budget” as defined by the state constitution, because the Revenue Estimating Conference has not yet adopted an official forecast. The operating budget is based on the administration’s top staff economist’s projection, which the REC could have adopted last week but did not.

Rep. Jerome Zeringue, the Houma Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said he didn't have any serious concerns about what he heard in Dardenne's proposal.

"It's pretty much what we anticipated," he said in a brief interview after the meeting.

The proposed cuts across various departments range from 0.06 percent to 2.25 percent. Zeringue's committee will begin hearing from the agencies before the legislative session opens March 9.

"That's when it gets down in the weeds," he said.

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