The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education wants legislators to approve a $2,000 pay raise for all public school teachers and an additional $1,000 for districts to allocate on a “targeted” basis. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that this could cause a rift with Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana’s largest teachers unions, which traditionally oppose targeted raises over concerns about fairness. Edwards’ 2023-24 executive budget includes the $2,000 raise – and possibly more if the state’s revenue projections continue to improve – but does not include the targeted raises: 

The requests by BESE and Edwards set the framework for the two-month debate, which will likely be decided close to the session’s adjournment on June 8. (Superintendent of Education Cade) Brumley told the board his proposal recognizes the hard work of educators, who grappled with unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. He said the “pay differential” part of his plan will allow local educators to use a pool of money and target funds where needed. Aside from highly effective teachers and those in high-needs schools, stipends would also be available for teachers in critical shortage areas – often, math and science – and for teacher leaders.

All plans include a $1,000 raise for cafeteria workers and other support staff.

EV task force requests extension on tax proposals 
A legislative task force charged with recommending ways to tax the increasing numbers of electric vehicles in Louisiana is requesting an extension on their work. While the goal of the Electric Vehicle Task Force was to have proposals ready for lawmakers to consider for the upcoming legislative session, those aren’t expected to be ready until next year, despite other states already beginning pilot programs of their own. BRProud’s Shannon Heckt reports: 

Some members of the task force want to find a way to not only offset the lost revenue on the gas tax but find a way to get ahead of the backlog. “If we have to make structural changes, and it seems like we must, let’s at least do so in a way that pays for the backlog and structures us to be able to take care of our needs to maintain our roads,” said State Rep. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans. The task force will have to get legislative approval to have an extension of time on their work. The legislative session starts on April 10.

Most of the money to build and repair Louisiana’s roadways comes from gasoline taxes paid by drivers. But the tax has been stagnant since 1990, and has lost much of its value due to inflation, vehicles becoming more fuel efficient and the advent of electric cars. 

When will Louisiana legalize recreational marijuana?
While Louisiana has legalized medical cannabis and decriminalized low-level possession of the plant, a full recreational legalization bill failed to gain enough support in the 2021 legislative session. Since then, voters in Maryland and Missouri have approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana, bringing the total number of states with such laws to 21. Gambit’s Kaylee Poche explains that prospects for a legalization bill in this year’s session seems unlikely, especially considering that 2023 is an election year, but explains how setting up a tax collections system may be the first step in the process. 

[Peter] Robins-Brown says Louisiana Progress is also working with a legislator on a bill that wouldn’t outright legalize recreational cannabis but would set up a system for taxing it should it become legal. “We think we’ve developed a tax proposal that incorporates those best practices, and tailors this proposal to the needs and the political realities of Louisiana,” he says. [Rep. Richard] Nelson had arguably the most successful attempt at legalization when he tried back in 2021. His taxation bill made it out of committee onto the House floor but failed 47-49, well short of the two-thirds vote needed to pass a tax measure. It would have given some part of the taxes collected to local law enforcement.

While last year’s victories for recreational marijuana in the Old Line and Show Me states showed growing support for marijuana in other parts of the country, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan on Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana in their state.  

Colorado’s expansion of UI benefits is getting noticed
The Covid-19 pandemic exposed holes in America’s public safety-net programs, especially unemployment insurance. Individual state UI systems struggled to keep up with the influx of new applicants and quickly disperse the benefits. But a plan by Colorado that seems to have solved these two issues is gaining the attention of other states and cities. Route Fifty’s Liz Farmer reports: 

As other states consider whether to make their own safety net pilot programs permanent, Colorado’s experience is being closely watched. In fact, California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have created a similar unemployment fund for undocumented immigrants, citing concerns about the estimated $200 million upfront cost. The idea of getting out money with few (or no) strings attached gained popularity during the pandemic as legacy systems for unemployment and housing assistance proved unable to adapt quickly to changes created during the public health emergency. Research has also shown that direct cash transfers are a more effective and equitable means of assistance.

Number of the Day
3 million –
Decline in the number of children living in families with incomes below the poverty line in 2021, as compared with 2020. The American Rescue Plan Act, and its signature expanded Child Tax Credit, were chiefly responsible for this historial reduction in poverty. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)