La. Taps Gambling Revenue To Raise Teachers' Salaries
Louisiana teachers stand to get a raise next fall, thanks to the state's gamblers.
The state legislature completed work last week on the gambling package during a special session called by Gov. Mike Foster to address the matter. The Republican governor has pledged to bring teacher salaries up to the Southern regional average. ("Louisiana Wants Casinos To Ante Up for Teacher Raises," March 21, 2001.)
"This special session has been a great success," Gov. Foster proclaimed upon its completion on March 22. "The House and Senate worked together with my administration to pass legislation that will raise teacher and faculty pay substantially."
The governor's original plan would have provided teachers with a $2,000 pay raise, with half of that derived from the gaming revenues and the other half from proposed changes to the state education budget. But the final amount could be $400 to $500 above that because of changes made in the legislature that would increase the tax revenue, said Thomas Tate, the chief lobbyist for the Louisiana Association of Educators, an affiliate of the National Education Association.
Mr. Foster's original plan would have exempted five of the state's 14 riverboat casinos from the higher taxes because they are not required to periodically leave the dock and cruise, as the other nine are. Under the final legislation, all of the state's riverboat casinos would remain permanently docked, but would face a tax of 21.5 percent, up from 18.5 percent.
Other Funding Source
A second aspect of the plan, also approved by legislators and signed by the governor last week, would lower the annual payment the state charges to Harrah's Casino, a land-based facility in New Orleans, while earmarking the money for raises for teachers and college faculty members. The current tax, $100 million per year, has threatened to put the casino out of business.
The gambling revenues would provide only a portion of the teacher-pay raise. The other half would come from using all of the growth in fiscal 2002 in the state's minimum-foundation program—the main state funding source for education—for increased teacher pay. The state board of education approved such a plan this month. It still requires approval by the legislature when it meets in regular session later this month.
Vol. 20, Issue 28, Page 20