The 2023 Louisiana legislative session began with great promise and ended with chaos, confusion and disappointment. 

With record amounts of revenue at their disposal, state policymakers failed to give public school teachers a permanent pay raise, and made a last-minute decision to cut $100 million that supports health care programs for low-income Louisianans and people with disabilities. While they retained most of the money sought by Gov. John Bel Edwards for early care and education programs, thousands of young children will still lose access to services they currently receive. 

The eleventh-hour changes to the state budget bills cap a lawmaking session where legislators missed critical opportunities to ensure that more Louisianans benefit from the state’s growing economy and the revenues it produced. Bills to establish a minimum wage and expand tax credits for low-income families with young children all failed, and lawmakers refused to pass legislation to guarantee paid family and medical leave for most workers, including those with low incomes. 

These failures should not obscure some of the good things to emerge from the session. 

Legislators wisely resisted the election-year temptation to make sweeping, across-the-board tax cuts. And they agreed to lift a constitutional spending cap, which cleared the way for $1.6 billion in new investments in construction projects that will benefit the state for years to come. There were new investments in Go Grant college scholarships for low-income students, and the state’s rainy-day funds swelled to a record $2.7 billion. 

It’s important to remember that, even with record amounts of revenue this year, there are still significant unmet needs across the state. Teachers remain underpaid compared to their Southern peers, our child welfare and juvenile justice systems are struggling and our state continues to rank last on virtually every quality of life metric. 

Addressing these longstanding problems won’t get easier, as Louisiana’s next governor and Legislature confront the loss of tax revenue as temporary taxes expire in 2025. Louisiana’s economy won’t prosper until every citizen has the tools they need to reach their full potential. 

If this is the best we can do, it’s not good enough.