This Spring, I will be representing District 91 in the Louisiana State Legislature for the final time. At the end of this, my third term, I want you to know that it has been an honor and a pleasure to represent the good people of this District. I am grateful for your support and for the privilege of serving in Baton Rouge and I am hopeful that the hard work completed and the hard work to come this session will help make your days better and brighter.
The Louisiana Legislature enters the 2019 session on April 8 with a much more stable fiscal forecast than previous years. For the first time in a long time, we aren’t staring down a fiscal cliff or mid-year budget cuts. We actually have a projected surplus this year because in 2018 the Legislature finally enacted some long-term fiscal solutions.
Unfortunately, politics has intervened and once again our budget process has been forced to follow a new path as the Legislature wrangles over how much of our revenue should be recognized for appropriation. However, I am confident that we will be able to move past these unnecessary political games and do the work we need to do for the people of Louisiana. I will work to move forward with the reality of the fiscal stability that was hard-won after years of fiscal irresponsibility by the previous administration. This stability can have amazing results for the people of Louisiana if we find a way to capitalize on it.
In that spirit, I have authored a budget bill in line with the revenue that has already come in during this fiscal year and the conservative predictions presented to the Revenue Estimating Conference. I will continue to work with my colleagues and legislate with the facts and resources available to us to help build a strong and stable future for all Louisianans.
Governor John Bel Edwards has included an additional $39 million investment in education for Louisiana’s K-12 students in the form of an increase in the state allocation for each individual K-12 student. The plan, which is endorsed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, includes a $1,000 annual pay raise for teachers and a $500 raise for school support workers. Best of all, the entire program would go into effect when school starts this Fall. Although Early Childhood Education was unfortunately not in this year’s proposed spending, this is a step in the right direction. I’ve said this for ten years now and I’ll say it again: investing in our children should continue to be a top priority.
A proposed Constitutional Amendment would allow local governments to change the amount of the Homestead Exemption as applied to taxes in their jurisdiction, setting a maximum of $75,000. Voters must approve the measure first.
Another Constitutional Amendment would remove sales tax from diapers and feminine hygiene products, giving them the same status as other essential and basic necessities that are exempt from the sales tax, with voter approval.
Betting on Louisiana
Sports gambling has now been approved by US courts and could be coming to Louisiana. A bill to set it up has been filed for this Legislative Session. If passed, it has been suggested that the revenues generated from sports betting could be dedicated to early childhood education.
Investing in our Workforce and Infrastructure
Increases have been proposed for the Louisiana Minimum Wage, which has sat at $7.25 since 2009. Governor Edwards would like to see an increase to $8 by next year and $8.50 by 2021, a modest increase that was just voted down last year.
An increase has also been proposed for the tax on gasoline. The gas tax has not been increased since 1989 and could help fund work on crumbling highways and bridges statewide. Louisiana currently has a backlog of $14 billion in statewide transportation projects that is not only unsafe but also inhibits progress and development.
As always, I am at your service and welcome your input on any issues that you wish to discuss. Please contact my office at (504) 556-9970 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns, or information.
Thank you for choosing me to be your State Representative and for your support over the last several years. Again, it has truly been an honor.
Walt Leger III
Representative, District 91