Governor sets sights on future investments

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – On Monday, Governor John Bel Edwards gave an update on some of the successes the state had this year as well as his goals for the new year.

He talked about the continued excess in the budget and the major investments the money has gone toward. Hundreds of millions went towards one-time payments for infrastructure such as road and bridge projects that have needed improvements for decades. There have also been teacher pay raises and investments into higher education and early learning. The money is thanks to an influx of federal dollars for pandemic and hurricane recovery. The state’s economy has also swung back in a big way following the pandemic.

“We’ve gone from about a $2 billion deficit when I became governor to surpluses and excess that together show about $2 billion to the good. That is a huge step forward for our state,” Gov. Edwards said.

The state’s top economists have already outlined an excess of $925 million in the current fiscal year that will again go towards one-time investments. Gov. Edwards said with a shift in tax collections and an economic slowdown not far off, the state has to be responsible with its spending.

“We need to manage expectations so people understand what’s happening in the future. Which is why it’s really important that we grow, diversify our economy and we produce this extra revenue,” Gov. Edwards said.

There has been recent talk about doing away with the state’s income tax. When asked, the governor said there has to be a plan in place for how to replace the state’s revenue. There is already around $800 million that will need to be replaced when the half-cent sales tax rolls off and part of the vehicle tax is shifted to a construction sub-fund.

Recently the Insurance Commissioner has been calling for a special session. He wants legislators to put money into an incentive fund to help draw insurance companies to the state. The issue of home insurance costs skyrocketing and companies closing up shop in the state has reached crisis levels. But the governor said a special session is not on the horizon.

“We’ll spend the time between now and April working with the Commissioner and with legislators to determine what that amount of funding should be,” Gov. Edwards said.

In other legislation, Edwards plans to ask lawmakers to pass an amended version of the abortion laws that have exceptions for rape and incest.

The governor also reflected on the COVID pandemic and how the state has made strides. This time last year the major omicron surge was filling up hospitals. Edwards said while COVID is still around, the flu has been rampant this year and urged people to get their flu shots.

The regular legislative session begins on April 10, 2023.