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Teacher raises, new Baton Rouge bridge in Edwards’ budget

January 24, 2022 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — More than $148 million for Louisiana teacher pay raises, $500 million toward construction of a new Mississippi River bridge at Baton Rouge, and a $550 million replenishment of the state’s pandemic-battered unemployment trust fund are part of the new state budget proposal outlined Monday by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Members of the Republican-dominated Legislature will get their first formal look at the Democratic governor’s spending plan at a committee hearing Tuesday. Introducing it at a news conference Monday, Edwards stressed that recurring costs, like his proposed increase in teacher pay of $1,500 per year, will be paid for with revenue that is forecast to be available annually thanks to an economy recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the $1.1 billion in major infrastructure spending, including the money for the Baton Rouge bridge, $100 million for an Interstate 10 bridge at the Calcasieu River in Lake Charles and $500 million in water and sewerage projects statewide, will come from an operating budget surplus and from a federal pandemic relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, passed last year.

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The proposed teacher pay raise could grow, Edwards said, if a state government panel charged with forecasting revenue increases 2022-23 estimates, as Edwards said he expects.

Edwards’ said that he is “focusing on education at all levels,” dedicating $31.7 million for higher education faculty pay raises and $5 million for Title IX offices across the state charged with preventing sex-based discrimination in education.