(The Center Square) – Louisiana Commissioner for Administration Jay Dardenne told the Louisiana Board of Regents on Tuesday that he expects the state to end the 2021-22 fiscal year with a surplus, though he’s “a bit concerned” about an impending $300 million federal payout. .
Dardenne and Louisiana Legislative Chief Economist Deborah Vivien shared their economic outlook with the board on Tuesday as the regents prepare next month’s higher education budget request for the fiscal year in come.
“I can say with some confidence that the state will have a surplus and one-time money to spend next year and the budget will be strong,” Dardenne said, though he didn’t provide a statement. figures. “The governor’s priorities will continue to focus on supporting early learning, but also focusing on higher education by emphasizing the importance of what you do in terms of economic support.
“It will be up to our colleges and universities to sharpen their pencils to show their value and how certifications and degrees translate into jobs,” he said.
The 2022-23 higher education budget included an increase of $159.2 million, including $31.7 million for faculty compensation, $5.4 million for dual enrollment and universal portability, 29 $25 million for health workforce development, $10 million for broadband upgrades, and an additional $10 million in other expenses.
Other appropriations included an additional $15 million in need-based financial aid, $10.5 million for the MJ Foster Scholars program for adult learners, and a $137.4 million increase for campus improvements.
The spending was made possible by surprisingly strong state revenues, a nearly $700 million surplus from the previous fiscal year, and an influx of federal COVID relief funds.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty good situation as we enter our last fiscal year” from the administration of Governor John Bel Edwards.
Dardenne, however, pointed to a $300 million federal payment for storm damage cleanup that may be due that authorities had not yet scheduled to repay.
“I’m a little worried about it right now,” he said.
Dardenne also touched on an ongoing effort in the Legislative Assembly to study the possibility of eliminating state income tax, wondering how lawmakers could replace the roughly $5 billion in annual revenue.
“We don’t think the Legislature should take any drastic steps on tax reform,” he said. “Where are you going to replace this huge amount of revenue that is shivering in the state budget? »
Vivien largely echoed Dardenne’s fiscal outlook, although she warned of the potential impacts of inflation and other economic uncertainties.
Regents also heard from the four presidents of the state’s university system, who shared their concerns about faculty and staff retention, the impact of the pandemic and hurricanes on student enrollment, and budget constraints due rising fuel prices, pensions and health care costs.
Regents will consider approving the current higher education budget at a meeting today and begin work on next year’s budget request next month, with the aim of submitting a proposal to the Division administration on November 1.
“We are grateful that the Governor and Legislature have prioritized investments in talent development, faculty compensation and increased accessibility here in Louisiana,” Higher Education Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed said. “However, today’s budget hearings remind us that two good years of funding for post-secondary education cannot erase decades of disinvestment. Staying competitive and advancing talent development will require sustained policy support to increase education and workforce development in our state.