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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LPR

Louisiana Lawmakers Reach Agreement to Lift Spending Limit, Paving the Way for Infrastructure Invest

Louisiana lawmakers have made significant progress in resolving a major political dispute during the legislative session. A House panel reached an agreement with Senate leaders to lift a crucial state spending limit, opening the door for millions of additional dollars to be allocated towards infrastructure, local projects, and hospitals.

The measure, approved by the House Appropriations Committee, will raise the spending cap by $250 million for the current year and $1.4 billion for the following year. Although the increase falls short of what Senate leadership initially proposed, it still allows for the funding of essential infrastructure projects advocated by Senate President Page Cortez and Governor John Bel Edwards.

Cortez explained that the state's fiscal staff determined that a smaller increase in the spending limit would adequately meet Louisiana's financial needs. "We were high on both," Cortez acknowledged, referring to the initial estimates. "We're in good shape."

The debate over lifting the spending limit has been ongoing, with House conservatives and Senate leaders differing on how to allocate the $2.2 billion in additional tax collections amassed over the past two years. Cortez and Edwards have favored directing the funds toward one-time infrastructure fees, while House conservatives have argued for debt reduction as a more fiscally responsible approach. The latter strategy would free up resources for local schools to implement teacher pay raises.

The increased spending cap approved by the Appropriations Committee ensures full investment in critical areas such as roads, bridges, and ports. It also sets aside funds for future infrastructure projects, including planned bridges in Lake Charles and Baton Rouge. The resolution still requires approval from the full House before the legislative session concludes on Thursday.

Representative Jack McFarland, who proposed the lower increase, played a pivotal role in finding a middle ground. He, along with Appropriations Committee Chairman Representative Jerome "Zee" Zeringue and Representative Brett Geymann, had initially advocated for staying within the spending cap. However, they ultimately supported raising the limit. Geymann, among others, voted against the increase.

McFarland highlighted that the compromise prevented additional spending of $250 million this year and $400 million next year. While Cortez had sought a larger increase, the lower limit outlined in McFarland's amendment still allows for significant investment in line with the requests made by Cortez and Edwards.

Zeringue, who initially opposed raising the limit, shifted his stance after it became clear that the Senate would not consider the House's plan to address teacher pay by relieving local schools of debt obligations. Edwards and the Senate prioritized using state funds to provide the desired pay raises for teachers.

The budget package, including the debt reduction proposal, advanced in the Senate with minor modifications. A conference committee comprising members from both chambers is expected to finalize the bills before they are sent to Governor Edwards for approval.

The agreement reached by Louisiana lawmakers demonstrates a commitment to addressing infrastructure needs while navigating fiscal concerns. By unlocking additional funds, the state can embark on crucial projects that will enhance transportation, boost local economies, and improve healthcare services for Louisianans.


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