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Louisiana’s 2022 budget plan: 4 things you may have missed

The Louisiana Senate chamber, photographed on Feb. 2, 2022. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)
The Louisiana Senate chamber, photographed on Feb. 2, 2022. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

The original version of this story was published by the Louisiana Illuminator.

The Louisiana Legislature is expected Thursday to finalize its budget plan for fiscal year 2022-23. It includes a $1,500 annual pay raise for K-12 public school teachers, a 3% pay raise for state higher education faculty and wage increases for correctional officers and child welfare workers.

Here are some aspects of the budget plan that might have been overlooked:

Tangipahoa flood victims will finally get paid

Approximately 1,200 people whose homes and businesses were damaged in massive flooding in 1983 may finally see some of the money courts repeatedly ruled Louisiana owes them. Judges ruled in favor of the victims who claimed the construction of Interstate 12 caused the flooding.

Lawmakers have included $50 million in their spending plan to settle the Tangipahoa judgments. It’s part of a total package to pay the group $101 million overall.

The court ordered the state to pay the flood victims $91.8 million, but the state has balked at that amount for decades. With accrued interest and other penalties, the judgment has grown to more than $350 million, but victims’ attorneys have been willing to settle for far less money in order to ensure some relief eventually reaches their clients.

Some people who were owed money have already died. Their share of the judgment will be passed along to family members.

Lawmakers boost their own budget

The state budget proposal currently includes a hefty $12.2 million increase in spending for the Legislature. Its total budget, which covers employee pay and legislators’ compensation, is now $109.6 million.

The biggest jumps are seen in the Legislative Budgetary Control Council’s budget, which is scheduled to go from $8.6 million to $11.8 million. The council handles, among other things, the Legislature’s outside contracts and joint staff.

The Senate’s budget is also going from $21.8 million to $25.7 million. The increases include an 8% pay boost for the Senate staff enacted last year and a proposal to build a 21-person security team for the Capitol that would cost $2 million.

Lawmakers have also spent at least $78,000 fighting a lawsuit over their recently approved political maps.

Louisiana’s judges get another raise

State and city judges across Louisiana will get another pay raise this coming fiscal cycle totaling $2.5 million under the proposal. The seven members of the Louisiana Supreme Court will collectively get a $64,000 pay boost.

In 2019, legislators passed a new law that requires the state to raise judge’s pay 12.5% annually until 2023.

Attorney general staff pay increases $1.7 million

When it approved the budget proposal this week, the Senate inserted $1.7 million in “performance rate adjustments” for unclassified employees in the Louisiana Department of Justice that Attorney General Jeff Landry runs. They also added back six positions to Landry’s agency that Gov. John Bel Edwards’ removed from the state budget proposal earlier this year.