BATON ROUGE — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards presented a hopeful State of the State address Monday at the Capitol to open the 2019 legislative session.
Edwards’ tone stood in contrast to the last few sessions in which lawmakers fought extensively over how to solve state budget problems.
Edwards, a Democrat who is campaigning for re-election, pointed to how the state’s $2 billion deficit has turned into a surplus and said his top priority this year is pay raises for teachers.
He is seeking $1,000 pay raises for public school teachers and $500 raises for school support personnel.
“Our teachers deserve more,” Edwards said, urging lawmakers to “step up” for teachers across the state.
Edwards also boasted about stabilizing funding for higher education and securing healthcare services.
“Through partnership rather than partisanship, we restored fiscal stability and put an end to the greatest budget crisis in our state’s history,’” Edwards said. He maintained that the “state is finally moving in the right direction.”
U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, and Eddie Rispone, a Republican businessman, were both in the House chamber as Edwards spoke. The two Republicans are challenging Edwards in this year’s governor’s race.
Abraham disputed Edwards’ notion that the state had made significant progress.
“The state is not OK,” Abraham said. “We’ve got a lot of problems. We’ve got a lot of issues, and we’re not addressing them. We’ve got to take this to a whole other level.”