State senate considers teacher pay raise, votes to make cash debt payment

By T. Scott Boatright

It was all about the money Monday for Louisiana’s state Senate.

Reports said the Senate on Monday admitted that the possibility of upping K-12 teacher salaries by $1,000 will likely not happen for the upcoming fiscal year while a Senate committee voted Monday to make a $400 million debt payment with cash rather than borrowing the money.

Louisiana’s House of Representatives already has agreed to put $45 million toward the payment. The Senate Finance Committee agreed to spend another $355 million, using money made available last week when the Revenue Estimating Conference raised the official forecast of how much money the state expects to collect.

That money reportedly will be to cover its share of the cost of a multibillion dollar federally built levee system in the New Orleans area. The original deal called for the state to make payments over 30 years, which could have added up to $3 billion in interest payments. Congress authorized forgiveness of the interest, however, if Louisiana could pay its $1.1 billion share by 2023. The first $400 million is due in September, and lawmakers had discussed selling bonds to pay for at least part of that debt.

Senators have amended a supplemental spending bill instead to make the first payment in cash.

As far as a teacher’s pay raise, Louisiana’s House-approved budget already included pay raises of $800 for elementary and secondary school teachers and $400 for support staff personnel such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

That was approved with the widespread expectation of an even higher raise pending additional revenues.

Those hikes, which would amount to $20 million in additional funding, didn’t make it into the budget released in committee Monday.

But the Senate’s proposed spending plan, which remains much like a budget passed weeks ago by the House, does include raises for K-12 teachers and support staff, as well as a $37 billion plan ups salaries for college faculty, prison guards, juvenile justice workers and other rank-and-file state employees.

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