BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Halfway through the legislative session, legislators are disagreeing on how the state’s surplus money should be spent and social issues targeting vulnerable groups are stealing the spotlight.
Gov. John Bel Edwards gave an update on his thoughts on the situation on Thursday.
Budget talks are swirling around the Capitol after House Republicans made major changes to the governor’s proposal. With the removal of teacher pay raises on the state level, and not backfilling lost federal money for early childhood education in favor of paying down teacher retirement debt, many are looking to the Senate to change the course.
“The idea that we can’t fashion a budget that reflects our priorities, given the funding that is available because of the condition of our economy right now, which is strong and firing on all cylinders,” Edwards said. “That would be beyond irresponsible and is hard for me to fathom.”
The Republicans in the House said they did not want to bust the constitutional spending cap in order to allow the governor’s investments and wanted to avoid doing so by paying down teacher retirement debt. They hope with the money saved from reducing interest, the local school districts will invest that money into teacher pay raises.
Edwards disagrees that busting the cap for these investments is a bad thing. He said the cap was put in place when state funding was much more unpredictable and based on the oil and gas industry.
“It was intended to prevent any expenditures under the current circumstances where you have such robust growth in the economy and so forth,” Edwards said.
The short fiscal session has been hijacked in a way by national social issues. Many anti-LGBTQ bills are advancing and drawing fierce testimony and rampant misinformation about the community. He said bills like that distract from the real issues.
“I don’t know how anybody can conclude that we actually have a problem that needs to be addressed or to be fixed, or that these bills actually address and fix a problem,” Edwards said.
He also shared his disappointment with the bill that would have added exceptions for rape and incest into the state’s abortion ban not passing.
Lawmakers have until June 8 to pass a budget and all their bills.