Rep. Jeremy LaCombe satisfied with 2022 legislative session
A legislative session amid abundant cash flow allowed for major infrastructure projects and increased funding for education, but lawmakers still maintained fiscal prudence, state Rep. Jeremy LaCombe said.
A $900 million surplus paved the way for the first round of funding for a Mississippi River bridge that will connect La.1 near Plaquemine to La. 30 south of Baton Rouge.
The $300 million will open the gates to federal funding eligibility for additional money for the long-awaited project, which lawmakers hope will ease one of the worst interstate traffic routes in the nation.
“Ultimately, it was a huge win and a big success for this state,” said LaCombe, D-Fordoche.
“It’s not just the bridge, but also improvements for La. 1 and La. 30, two very busy routes that are in need of a lot of work.”
A record $84 million investment in early childhood education, along with pay raises for K-12 teachers and college faculty, also stood out among the bigger accomplishments in the session, he said.
Locally, LaCombe and state Sen. Rick Ward secured House Bill 2 funding that could help with the Pointe Coupee Parish Jail, construction costs of a new central office for the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board and capital outlay funding for drainage improvements throughout the parish.
HB2 will funnel revenue that would go toward planning for a new facility for the Pointe Coupee Council on Aging.
“They’re trying to get a project that would meet the needs of the seniors of the parish,” LaCombe said.
“They currently use space at Pointe Coupee General Hospital, but they’re trying to get a standalone facility outside the hospital.”
Even with an abundance of revenue, lawmakers had to take a disciplined approach on spending, he said.
Some of the money in the current budget stems from one-time revenue, including federal grants and COVID-19 relief money.
Also, the expiration of the second half of a one-cent sales tax in mid-2025 made fiscal responsibility imperative, LaCombe said.
If lawmakers let it expire, it will take $450 million from the annual budget.
“We made certain to use the money for one-time projects instead of recurring expenditures,” he said. “We wanted to make sure everything was mindful toward fiscal responsibility.”
The $450 million makes up a large portion of the general fund.
Use of one-time expenses for recurring revenue could prove disastrous for the state, as it did during the Bobby Jindal administration.
“That was always at the forefront of people’s minds,” he said. “Everyone knows that they had to be cognizant about making sure not to set up for a budget deficit two years from now, so the biggest challenges were knowing how to spend the money so we’re not looking at budget cuts two years from now.”