The 2019 Session has ended. First and foremost, I want to thank you for placing your trust in me and allowing me to represent you in the Louisiana Legislature for my full limit of three terms. It has been an honor, and I appreciate your confidence and your support over the last several years. My wife, Danielle, and our two daughters join me in saying thank you.
Happily, I have some good news about this legislative session: we have a balanced budget, our state revenue stream is stable and improving, we are spending wisely on education, and New Orleans came out a big winner.
We have come a long way and it has not been easy, but I truly believe that Louisiana is set for a future brighter than what I could have imagined my first day on the job. Below is a rundown of the 2019 Session highlights:
This year we had a $308 Million surplus. • Last year’s hard work avoiding the “fiscal cliff” has provided much needed stability in the budget process • There is new revenue for children and families: 7% of gross sales of medical marijuana will go to the Community and Family Support System Fund and the 3% tax on sales of industrial hemp and associated products will go to the Early Childhood Education Fund.
We are investing $2.8 Billion in Higher Education. • We are investing $5.6 Billion in PreK to 12 Education and Special Schools • We are investing $20 Million in Early Childhood Education • We are investing an additional $38.9 Million in K-12 classrooms across the state for the first time in a decade • Teachers will get a pay raise of $1,000 per year. • School support personnel will get a raise of $500 per year. • These pay increases are codified in law and will continue year after year. • TOPS is fully funded at $311 Million.
Harrah’s was granted a 30-year extension of its operating contract. • Harrah’s will build a new $325 Million hotel, upgrade the non-gaming aspects of the casino and new entertainment venues and restaurants, and make annual payments to the city and state • In the next five years alone, New Orleans is expected to see an additional $49 Million from generated Casino expansion revenue. • Annual Harrah’s payments will include $6 Million to the city for support services, $3.6 Million to Early Childhood Education, $3.4 Million to the Louisiana Cancer Research Center in New Orleans, and money for capital infrastructure projects.
New Orleans Infrastructure Needs Being Met
I worked alongside Governor John Bel Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the New Orleans delegation to finalize a solution to New Orleans’ crumbling infrastructure needs. • The state and the city made a deal that will provide $50 Million upfront and an additional $17.5 Million over the next five years to be used on drainage infrastructure in the city • A package of three bills will create an additional $26 Million in new annual city revenue. • This package includes my bill that authorizes the construction of a 1200 room hotel and parking garage at the Convention Center which will bring millions annually to state and city economies in addition to 2500 direct new jobs. • This package also includes new taxes on hotels and short-term rentals.
State Infrastructure Package
We are investing $700 Million in Deepwater Horizon litigation proceeds to fulfill transportation infrastructure needs across the state. • This money will go to projects such as the Port of New Orleans; I-49, North and South; West Baton Rouge connector, La. Hwy. 415; La. 1 to Port Forchon; and a variety of off-system bridges.
Initiatives to Keep Supporting in the Future
There are many things left to do, but as we move forward, we must continue to invest in our youngest children to give them the foundation for future success. When they start off in kindergarten already behind, it is too hard to catch up. We must do better if we want a stronger, wealthier State. • We must continue to work toward reasonable, sustainable tax policies. Decoupling our income tax deductions from the federal government is critical and will bring much need structural reform to the State’s revenue picture. • Investment in our roads, highways, bridges, ports and other crucial infrastructure is critical for our economy to grow. Just as importantly, high quality infrastructure is critical to public safety and to our quality of life. We must work to be responsible stewards of state infrastructure by investing in maintenance and upkeep while also adding capacity as needed to advance and diversify the economy of Louisiana.
As always, I remain truly honored to have served as your State Representative and Speaker Pro Tempore in the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.