Today, John Bel Edwards will give his proposed budget to state lawmakers and promise that there are absolutely no cuts to it whatsoever. Given that this economic year is fairly flat, that must mean he wants to see a tax increase and is almost certainly relying on federal money coming in (let’s get to that in a moment).
Part of Edwards’ proposal calls for a $400 raise for teachers in the state of Louisiana. This would be the second raise in three years, after the pre-election $1,000 raise he called for and got in 2019. That payoff to the unions was pretty obvious: $1,000 a year as a pay raise sounds great on its face, but it’s less than $100 per month before taxes and other payroll deductions, and the only people who would feel any real impact from that are the teachers’ unions, who would see a chunk of that raise from thousands of teachers in the state. Those of us lucky enough to not be in a union got enough extra per month to buy groceries.
A $400 increase is $33.33 per month before taxes and other deductions, which would allow me as a teacher the extravagance of buying one brisket a month from Walmart to put in the smoker. Not a terrible idea, but not really much of a raise. I might rather just take a gift-wrapped brisket per month.
Honestly, this would just be another little tidbit for the Democrat-aligned unions, but not really equate to much for the teachers. It’s bread crumbs to remind the teachers the work a lot of them have had to put in to make this school year work as best as possible isn’t really worth all that much.
But along with that, we have to understand that the money to do this doesn’t truly exist. At best, it comes from a statewide tax increase at a time when the economy is in bad shape, and Edwards’ leadership (particularly in the way he’s run the energy sector out of the state) doesn’t help. At worst, it’s going to come from federal relief money pouring into the states.
But that’s good, right? We’re not paying for it! The government already took it from us once, and now we get to use it on ourselves!
…Except that the federal teat always eventually dries up. Federal funding is never permanent, and states have to pick up the slack. When that happens, a Republican-run state government (in theory!) wouldn’t raise your taxes. There would have to be cut, and those cuts would end up being the very money the state said our raises were coming from. So do districts cut salaries? Of course not. They’ll have to raise new or current taxes to make sure teachers keep that raise.
In the end, a teacher pay raise of $400 is going to be a tax increase on the rest of Louisiana regardless of where the money comes from. I am not sure that this is the time to do that and, as much as I personally would like a pay raise, it simply difficult to reconcile that desire with the economic facts. There’s no way to justify what would eventually have to become a tax increase on Louisiana residents at a point in time when our economy is doing poorly.