LSU’s crumbling library

Posted on May 19, 2017

Gov. John Bel Edwards toured the crumbling Middleton Library at Louisiana’s flagship university and made a pitch for reinvestment on Thursday. Due to the state’s fractured tax structure and the $440 million shortfall for next fiscal year, the governor wasn’t able to include funding for college maintenance projects in his budget. Gannett’s Greg Hilburn reports:

“If the conditions at LSU are any reflection on how we value education in this state, then we are failing our students,” Edwards said in a statement. “They expect better, and they deserve better. The issues we saw at LSU can be seen across the state. “We disinvested in higher education more than anywhere in the country under the previous administration and this is what’s left to show of it. It’s time to turn the page and invest in our children’s futures, and I’m willing to work with the Legislature to make that happen.” Campuses throughout the state are buckling under the weight of $1.7 billion in deferred maintenance. “Our facilities are disintegrating from the inside out,” said University of Louisiana System President Jim Henderson. “It’s a huge issue for us.”


Health groups speak out on budget

More than two dozen organizations are calling on the Louisiana Senate to reverse $237 million in cuts to healthcare services proposed by the House of Representatives earlier this month. In a letter to members of the Senate Finance Committee, groups that represent healthcare providers, patients and ordinary citizens said the proposed cuts are unnecessary, as the House simply refused to spend money that is available.

The state legislature has the responsibility of ensuring the general health and welfare of the people of Louisiana, and we believe that haphazardly cutting funding from the Louisiana Department of Health is a dereliction of duty. If the Senate does not reverse the cuts made in the House, the Legislature could end up being responsible for an uncontrolled Zika outbreak, increased suicide among children whose therapy services are eliminated, and the deaths of elderly individuals who can no longer afford their medicine. Children may lose access to primary care at school-based health centers. All of those consequences could be avoided by the simple decision to not leave money in the bank that should be invested in vital health services.


Medicaid cuts and long-term care

In her recent three-part series “Profits over Patients,” The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen trained a spotlight on the influence of the nursing home industry in restricting access to long-term care in home and community settings. Now, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Judith Solomon and Jessica Schubel explain that the massive Medicaid cuts in the House-passed healthcare bill would hamper states’ ability to fund alternatives to nursing homes.

Faced with deep and growing cuts from a per capita cap, states would likely cut back HCBS to reduce Medicaid costs in the short run, even though doing so could ultimately lead more seniors and people with disabilities to be forced into nursing homes, worsening their quality of life and raising long-term state costs. Ohio Governor John Kasich pointed to HCBS as one way he has managed the growth in Medicaid costs in his state, which has a highly successful Medicaid expansion. The growing use of HCBS and other innovations states have been adopting in their programs would be at risk if the AHCA’s per capita cap were enacted.

Meanwhile, health insurance companies are saying that President Donald Trump’s administration explicitly threatened to withhold payments that shore up health care markets unless insurers agreed to support the administration’s plans to decimate Medicaid. The Los Angeles Times’ Noam Levey:

At one recent meeting, Seema Verma, whom Trump picked to oversee the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, stunned insurance industry officials by suggesting a bargain: The administration would fund the CSRs (Cost Sharing Reductions) if insurers supported the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “It made no sense,” said one official at the meeting. Many insurers, as well as every leading patient and physician group, believe the House bill is deeply flawed. Independent analyses suggest the legislation, which Trump has enthusiastically backed, would increase the ranks of uninsured by 24 million over the next decade.


Criminal justice reform steps

As momentum continues to build for a package of compromise criminal justice reform bills, Rep. Walt Leger and Rep. Tanner Magee write in The Advocate that the time for change is now.

The need for reform could not be more compelling. Louisiana spends nearly $700 million annually on corrections, but one in three inmates released from prison is back behind bars within three years. That’s unacceptable to us, so we joined with seven other lawmakers in the House and Senate on a package that attacks the shortcomings of our system from multiple angles. One key goal is to focus expensive prison beds on those convicted of more serious crimes while strengthening probation and other prison alternatives for nonviolent offenders. Other bills would reduce barriers that make it hard for people leaving prison to find jobs and housing and tailor criminal justice fines and fees to a person’s ability to pay.


Game of deception

Rep. Steve Pylant of Winnsboro was originally a cosponsor of Rep. Terry Landry’s legislation to end Louisiana’s use of the death penalty. It came as a surprise when he voted against his own bill in committee, leading to defeat of the measure by a one-vote margin. Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue reports that Pylant’s ostensible support was actually a cynical effort to further his crusade to hasten executions.

“If I hadn’t put my name on it, you wouldn’t be out here talking to me,” Pylant told reporters after the vote. Louisiana has executed only one person since 2002. Gerald Bordelon had waived his right to more appeals in 2010 and was executed then. The death penalty is expensive: Louisiana spends $9 million to $10 million annually on defense counsel for Louisiana’s 73 inmates sentenced to death. That doesn’t count the costs for prosecutors and courts — or local parish expenditures on capital defense. Pylant said Louisiana could be executing more people if officials prioritized it. He pointed out that Arkansas executed four people in eight days in April.


Number of the Day

$51 million – Additional federal flood recovery money heading to Louisiana, bringing the total allocation to about $1.7 billion. This total is less than half the request from Louisiana’s congressional delegation. (Source: The Advocate)


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