Farm bill heads to conference committee

Posted on June 29, 2018

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the most important parts of our country’s safety net, and ensures that nearly 900,000 Louisianans each year have enough to eat. On Thursday the U.S. Senate took a major step toward protecting the program for future recipients, overwhelmingly approving a version of the farm bill that renews SNAP (along with a host of agricultural programs) for another five years. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Executive Director, Bob Greenstein, weighs in on the next steps:

The Senate bill is far superior to the House version, which would eliminate or reduce food assistance for more than 1 million low-income households with more than 2 million people.  Those likely to lose food assistance under the House bill include many working families, as well as many caregivers. Children, too, would be harmed because when parents lose SNAP, they have fewer resources to feed their families. The Senate bill’s nutrition provisions reflect Congress’ longstanding tradition of seeking to make bipartisan reforms and improvements to SNAP.  Policymakers should use the bill’s SNAP measures as the basis for the final bill and should discard the House’s partisan provisions, which would increase hunger and hardship and further widen the nation’s economic divide.

Meanwhile, the House’s budget proposal includes deep cuts to SNAP and other programs that serve the most vulnerable. The House budget resolution calls for a $4.6 trillion reduction to programs including Medicaid, Medicare, Pell Grants and Social Security over the next decade. SNAP takes a $157 billion cut in the bill, which is even more severe than what’s included in the problematic House farm bill. CBPP analysts Joel Friedman and Richard Kogan:

The cuts called for in the budget plan are far deeper than those in the already troubling House-passed farm bill, which would eliminate or reduce food assistance for more than 1 million low-income households with more than 2 million people.  And the budget plan also proposes to “increase state flexibility” to achieve some of its SNAP savings, while providing few details; in past GOP budgets, such proposals have included converting SNAP into some type of block grant that would reduce funding steadily over time and eliminate a guarantee of food assistance.


Time to streamline sales tax collections
In a timely new report, the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana breaks down last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on internet sales taxes, which temporarily derailed the Legislature’s attempt to strike a revenue deal. According to PAR, Louisiana should keep its revenue expectations modest and keep working to create a more uniform system for collecting sales taxes – an urgent task the state has avoided for decades. Times-Picayune columnist Tim Morris has more:

“Each parish in Louisiana oversees its own sales tax collection, audits, rates and even interpretations of what is taxed,” the PAR report says. “No other state has this degree of local independence and control of its sales tax system. Louisiana has an unusually large number of exemptions and exclusions, and state and local governments lack uniformity about what is taxable.”…The critics had hoped that the lure of internet taxes would force Louisiana to clean up its act. Instead, PAR reports, that rather than overhaul its dysfunctional structure, the state has decided to go “to a two-track system: out-of-state online retailers get a simple centralized process, while local brick and mortar retailers are left with the same archaic and inefficient system hostile to business activity.”


Early childhood ed needs attention
Investing in children is an investment in our future. Louisiana’s persistently low investments in quality early child care, youth mental health services, and K-12 education all contribute to our low ranking on the Annie E. Kids Count state rankings for child well-being. The lack of investment in children and families also weakens our state’s economy and keeps Louisiana from being as productive and prosperous a state as it should be. The editorial board reflects on decisions past that have not done right by Louisiana children:

The Child Care Assistance Program was serving almost 40,000 children 10 years ago but has only had money for 15,000 in recent years. There are 140,000 low-income children age 3 and under in Louisiana who lack access to a publicly funded spot for child care or preschool, Ms. [Melanie] Bronfin said. The state also has cut funding for trauma counseling for children. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal eliminated the state’s Early Childhood Supports and Services program in 2012, doing away with mental health care for children under age 6 who had been exposed to violence. Then, in 2017, Gov. John Bel Edwards cut Medicaid-funded mental health services for children of all ages when the state was facing a budget deficit. Investing in vulnerable children would improve their chances for success in school and in life. It would make it easier for their parents to work and strengthen Louisiana’s economy. It’s also the right thing to do.


Drivers of the gig economy
Everyone deserve access to a quality job that allows them to provide basic necessities to their family and save for the future. Could the “gig economy” provide that opportunity? Not so fast, says Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute. Mishel digs into the national earnings data and finds that most workers in the gig economy are still working a traditional job, but with wages stagnant and benefits lacking, they’re simply looking for ways to earn supplemental income:

There has been much discussion of the expansion of self-employment in the context of the “future of work” or the “evolving nature of work.” The accumulation of evidence from administrative data (i.e. nonemployer establishments), tax return data, household surveys like the Current Population Survey and the Contingent Worker Survey tells us that there has been an expansion of self-employment activity—more people are involved—but that most of the growth is by people seeking supplementary income on top of what they obtain from their main source of income. There has not been an expansion of self-employment in peoples’ main job. … That should probably reinvigorate inquiry into the failings of people’s main job to provide adequate income, benefits, and security


Editor’s note: The Daily Dime is taking its annual summer break so that the staff can have some time to reflect and recharge. We will return on Aug. 6. If you appreciate receiving the Dime in your inbox for 10 months per year, please consider making a donation to LBP.


Number of the Day
65 percent– Voters who said that continuing protections for people with pre-existing conditions is very important, if not the single most important health issue, for midterm candidates. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)


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