Planning for the future

Last week, the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) proposed by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) was rejected by the House Education Committee in a partisan vote. The MFP is a school spending plan incorporated in the budget bill that establishes the amount of money we spend per student per school year. It is our single greatest investment-it’s how we meet the needs of our children. It’s how we provide them with a quality education that will help them thrive and, in turn, help our state thrive.

The proposed MFP included $101 Million for teacher pay raises and $39 Million in school aid money to be invested in classrooms across Louisiana. This new money is vital to further supporting our teachers with updated technology and innovation and ensures they don’t have to pay out of pocket for school supplies. The MFP codifies these measures in law so they wouldn’t be vulnerable to cuts next year and the years to follow. Republicans rejected it, Democrats accepted it and tried to move it forward.

The reason Republicans have given for rejecting the MFP is the same reason they gave for needlessly stalling the budget process: they’ve chosen not to trust conservative estimates of how much money we have to appropriate this year. They want to include teacher raises, but they don’t want to invest additional dollars in the classroom to support students and educators, so they rejected them both, putting the fate of both measures in jeopardy.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. Let’s stop this disturbing trend of only partially investing in education: it cheapens our investment and weakens our education system. We have a conservative projection of what to expect in revenue this year. The wise move is to invest in our future by investing in our children.

My Legislative Action this Week

Earlier this week, I successfully moved HB 217 out of the Transportation Committee. HB 217, will generate $8.5 M in recurring revenue tied to the movement of Cargo Containers. This bill dedicates this revenue to the repair of roads and bridges across the state, while simultaneously ensuring that our Ports can continue their record setting pace of moving Cargo Containers-the Port of New Orleans moved over 600,000 containers last year alone! This investment in infrastructure will make road and bridges safer for citizens and stronger for the Ports and Truckers that drive a significant portion of our economy in Louisiana.  Look for this bill to be on the floor for final passage early next week.

HB 318, The Team Gleason Special License Plate bill, was also unanimously approved by the Transportation Committee. This license plate will allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to work with the Team Gleason Foundation to develop a prestige license plate, which will bolster the Foundation’s important mission of supporting those being treated for ALS and their families. Team Gleason leads the way in advocacy and shines the light on the challenges facing treatment, research and support for people and families afflicted with this and other neuromuscular diseases. This bill will also be on the floor next week for Final Passage.

New Orleans and Louisiana have an internationally renowned and respected reputation for musical talent.  HB 331 seeks to further support our artists and the companies that support them with a Sound Recording Tax Credit, which offers credits for the creation of jobs in Qualified Music Companies. HB 331 preserves and protects the current law, but also increases the credit for Louisiana-based artists who write or Louisiana companies that own musical compositions.  Resident copyrights, those owned by Louisiana artists and Louisiana companies, and the recording of those compositions would be eligible to receive additional support to help grow and sustain a stronger music business sector, while also working to protect Louisiana artists who create content and seek to bring it to market. Keep your eye on this bill and please contact any legislators you can to encourage them to support an indigenous music industry in Louisiana. We expect this bill to reach the House Floor for final passage next week.

Walt Leger