The legislative session wrapped up this past week in Baton Rouge. I am happy with the results, and you should be too. Let me explain four reasons why.
First, we produced a balanced budget that invests in our priorities, doesn’t raise taxes and includes nearly $70 million in increased funding for K-12 education. Much of this increased education funding will go toward pay raises for our teachers. Our teachers not only deserve a raise, they deserve our thanks for the major progress we have seen at our schools over the last few years.
Indeed, graduation rates have reached an all-time high, the number of failing schools is decreasing and student performance is going up. It makes sense to give teachers and school districts the resources and support they deserve for doing the heroic work of implementing the unprecedented and historic education reforms we have passed over the last several years.
Second, this year’s budget continues to fund the historic education reforms we passed last year. The Louisiana Scholarship Program that gives children the opportunity to leave failing schools is expanding and the reforms that reward our teachers for improving student achievement are continuing. Despite attempts from opponents of reform, no legislation was passed to slow down, delay or dilute historic reforms that are moving our education system forward.
Third, the state budget does not include any tax increases. We defeated an attempt by some legislators to pass a $1.3 billion tax hike on families and businesses that would have jeopardized the major economic gains Louisiana has made over the last few years. Higher taxes would have derailed our continued growth and hurt Louisiana citizens and job creators.
Fourth and finally, we worked with the Legislature to reject Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in Louisiana that would cost taxpayers up to $1.7 billion, put 41 percent of the state’s population in a welfare program and move 248,000 people from private insurance. Even though the effort to oppose Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion was successful, the President and his allies are going to continue to try and force this awful policy on us, and that’s why I will keep fighting to oppose the implementation of Obamacare in Louisiana.
While the legislative session is over, the work to move Louisiana forward continues. We have made incredible progress over the last five years by transforming our ethics laws, streamlining workforce development programs, reining in government spending, cutting taxes and enacting landmark education reforms — all because we want Louisiana’s next generation to be its greatest generation yet.
These reforms are working. Just take a look at the results. Louisiana now has some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation that show who you know is no longer more important than what you know when it comes to doing business in our state. Louisiana now has the number one workforce-training program in the country. Louisiana – a state that once lagged behind in business climate rankings – now ranks in the top ten of three major national business climate rankings.
Louisiana is one of only a handful of states that have more jobs now than at the beginning of the recession. Louisiana has been among the top ten states for private sector job growth since 2008. For the past five years in a row, more people are now moving into Louisiana than moving out – reversing a more than two decade trend of more people moving out of our state than moving in.
The list goes on and on, but it’s clear we are making incredible progress. Our work is paying off. However, this is not the time to declare victory. Our work is not done yet. We will continue to swing for the fences and pursue bold reforms so we can make Louisiana the best place in the world to find a job, raise a family and pursue your dreams.