A Senate committee will have its chance to make changes to the state’s next budget today. Jay Dardenne, Governor John Bel Edwards’ top budget advisor, told members of the Senate Finance committee last week that most of the changes adopted by the House are in line with the administration’s proposals.
“But as you can imagine, there are some things that were placed in the bill that we don’t believe should be in there, based upon the fact that there are other priorities we think ought to be funded,” explained Dardenne.
For starters, the administration is suggesting the Senate go back to the original K-12 pay raises put forward by the governor: $1,000 for teachers and $500 for support staff.
The Republican-controlled House rejected that plan earlier this month, opting instead to increase the teacher pay raise to $1,200 and support staff raises to $600. In order to do that, they nixed an additional $39 million the governor wanted to send to school districts.
The Senate, on the other hand, stuck with the governor’s K-12 funding plan, which it approved two weeks ago.
Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) was the only senator to vote against that measure. He says the two different plans could lead to a standoff in the final days of session.
“We’re going to have a proposal, they’ll have a proposal, and we’ll have a few days left to hash out a compromise,” he said.
The governor also wants an extra $4 million included for early childhood education, an initiative lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have supported this session.
It’s part of his proposed $18 million increase in state spending on education for kids up to the age of 4. That money wasn’t included in the governor’s original budget plan.
But the Department of Education says it needs $40 million just to maintain the program.
In order to make these adjustments, Dardenne says some of the House priorities for new spending would have to change.
“Even when you have money, you can’t do everything,” he cautioned.
The senate committee will consider the budget today.