Here's how Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to spend $1.6B from American Rescue Plan
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards proposes spending $1.6 billion of the state's $3.2 billion in American Rescue Plan funding on the state's bankrupt unemployment trust fund, tourism and infrastructure to help stand up the economy.
"It's my belief that these are the three most important things we can do right now ... to have a transformative, positive impact on Louisiana," Edwards said in a Thursday afternoon press conference.
Louisiana will get $1.6 billion up front and another $1.6 billion during the next two years.
Edwards, who will need approval from the Legislature, wants to direct $230 million to repay federal loans that have propped up the state's unemployment trust fund and another $400 million to replenish the trust fund to avoid triggering taxes on businesses.
"I don't believe it's a good thing to increase taxes on businesses when we're trying to grow the economy coming out of a pandemic," he said.
Edwards said the state will have to direct more of the next round of funding toward the unemployment trust fund as well for it to reach the $750 million balance required for solvency.
The governor is proposing $750 million go toward infrastructure — $400 million to roads and bridges, $300 million to updgrade dilapidated water systems and $50 million for ports.
He's also recommending $125 million for Convention and Visitors Bureaus and other tourism venues and $20 million for the Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism under Lt. Gov. Billy's Nungesser's control.
"That's incredibly important to jump start our economy," he said.
Nungesser said he has a plans to maximize the funding.
"We must market every part of our state," Nungesser said.
Edwards plan largely aligns with what legislative leaders told USA Today they wanted, though there will likely be some tug-of-wars during negotiations.
Edwards, Republican Senate President Page Cortez and GOP House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerome "Zee" Zeringue agree restoring solvency to the state's unemployment trust fund should be the first priority.
"It's an opportunity we can't pass up, but we can't mess it up either," Zeringue said.
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Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.