The bipartisan budget retreat

Posted on October 12, 2017

Louisiana lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are meeting today in Baton Rouge for a retreat organized by House GOP Chair Lance Harris and House Democratic Caucus Leader Gene Reynolds. The gathering is an attempt to discuss options for fixing the $1.5 billion fiscal cliff and equip House members with the information they’ll need to propose or back policy solutions in the upcoming (but yet unscheduled) special legislative session. From Greg Hilburn’s story for the USA TODAY Network:

“Lance and I really would like to have confidence that there are 70 votes on key issues before we go into a special session,” said Reynolds, referring to the two-thirds majority needed to pass taxes. Harris said House Republicans have been meeting regionally for three weeks leading up to the retreat with the final meetings in Monroe and Shreveport Tuesday. “We’re working hard to peek into next year and see what can be done,” Harris said. “This is a data gathering meeting. Actual policy will surface later.” Most members believe Gov. John Bel Edwards will call a special session following Mardi Gras in February to address the crisis.


Transportation infrastructure backlog worsening

Louisiana lawmakers failed to raise additional funds for new and improved roads and bridges this past session, scuttling an increase in the gas tax which has seen its value diminish 47 percent since it was last raised in 1990. Meanwhile, the state’s backlog of transportation needs continues to grow. It’s now $13.1 billion, according to Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson at yesterday’s Joint Transportation Committee meeting. As reported by Will Sentell of The Advocate, community leaders are feeling the pressure – and the congestion – and without new revenue to address transportation construction needs, it’s only growing.

Construction of a new bridge across the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, widening Interstate 10 from the bridge to the I-10/12 split and construction of an interchange at Interstate 10 and Pecue Lane in southeast Baton Rouge were all cited. Lawmakers and parish leaders from the west side of the river repeatedly called for traffic relief for commuters who rely on the “new” bridge daily. However, the lack of additional dollars to finance improvements surfaced over and over during the nearly two-hour hearing. “We need revenue, obviously,” said state Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, a member of the House transportation committee and the sponsor of the failed gas tax hike.


Highest taxed nation in the world?

The United States is not the highest taxed nation in the world, though that false claim has been a consistent White House talking point. The falsehood is designed to fuel public support for President Donald Trump’s package of tax changes that would primarily benefit the richest Americans. Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum has more:

Fact checkers and tax experts from across the political spectrum have repeatedly noted that the statement is false. Taxes represent about 26 percent of GDP in the United States. That’s well below the 34 percent average in the OECD — and far below countries like Denmark, France and Italy, where taxes are more than 40 percent of GDP. But Trump has stuck to the talking point. And, as the White House showed on Tuesday, it will continue to defend the remark.


Health groups speak out on EPA decision

Eighteen national health organizations and associations have signed a statement decrying Tuesday’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, citing the health effects of increased pollution on children, seniors and those living with chronic illness. The Clean Power Plan, an initiative of President Obama’s EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has been on hold because of court challenges and wasn’t scheduled to be implemented until 2022. It gives states flexibility to meet individualized goals in reducing emissions and improving air quality.

Today’s proposal to revoke the Clean Power Plan is inconsistent with EPA’s core mission of protecting public health and the environment. The Clean Power Plan, adopted in 2015, would have substantially reduced carbon pollution and other emissions from power plants, and prevented an estimated 90,000 pediatric asthma attacks and 3,600 premature deaths each year once fully implemented. Revoking this lifesaving plan denies Americans these health protections and removes crucial tools to reduce pollution that causes climate change.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has officially announced the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, but it’s not the end of the story. Umair Irfan of Vox walks us through the repeal timeline:

(EPA Administrator Scott) Pruitt can’t simply wave the rule away. This will be a long process that will be just as fraught as the one that birthed the rule, replete with public comments and lawsuits. As Vox’s Dave Roberts explained, this repeal effort is going to be a huge mess.


Number of the Day

$13.1 billion – The current transportation construction project backlog (Source: Department of Transportation and Development via The Advocate)


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