Business rankings exaggerate strength of Louisiana’s economy
Despite Gov. Bobby Jindal’s repeated claims that Louisiana’s economy is booming, the state’s job-creation record is not as clear-cut as the administration and business magazines proclaim, Nola.com columnist Bob Mann writes. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when Jindal took office in January 2008, there were 1,962,000 people employed in Louisiana. … In July of 2013, there were 1,947,000 million employed Louisianans, roughly the same as when Jindal became governor.” Mann also cites a recent LBP report that found Louisiana’s manufacturing employment is down nearly 20 percent since the turn of the century and 10 percent since the start of the recession, while the lower-paying service sector continues to grow. Mann reveals that one trade magazine used information from the governor’s own website to determine that Louisiana is the nation’s sixth-ranked state for business – hardly a rigorous methodology – and suggests the rankings exaggerate the state’s economic performance. “Our economy is still sputtering,” Mann says, “and too many people are still struggling.”
Passing on healthcare reform hurts Louisiana
By 2016, a poor state in the Deep South will have “400,000 newly insured residents, a GDP increase of $550 million and 6,200 new jobs.” Louisiana? Of course not. It’s Arkansas, our northern neighbor, whose GOP-led legislature took a decidedly different approach to healthcare reform than Louisiana. The differences were laid out in a letter to the editor in Saturday’s Baton Rouge Advocate by Aprill Springfield Blanco, a former top aide to Gov. Kathleen Blanco who is now a private consultant in Shreveport. “Gov. Jindal will forfeit billions of Louisiana taxpayers’ dollars to states like Arkansas to improve their workforces and make their businesses competitive, while 400,000 Louisianans eligible for the Medicaid expansion will be shut out of health care,” Springfield writes. “His decision to deny 400,000 Louisianans health care is doubly harsh, as many will not be eligible for subsidies to buy health care through the federal exchange.”
AP analysis: Another budget headache looms with rainy-day fund
State legislators will need to find an additional $330 million by 2015 to re-fill the state’s rainy-day fund – and will have a tougher time tapping the state’s emergency account during tough budget times – under the terms of a recent agreement that tries to settle a longstanding dispute over the use of the fund. Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press looks at how the state found itself in this mess to begin with, and says the latest twist in the saga “adds a new budget problem to the horizon for lawmakers, just as it was finally starting to appear that the state’s deepest financial troubles could be moving behind them.”
Same-sex couples must file separate state tax returns
Louisiana will not allow same-sex couples to file joint state tax returns because the state’s constitutional defines marriage as consisting “only of the union of one man and one woman.” The decision was announced on Friday by Louisiana Department of Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield. “Louisiana’s Secretary of Revenue is bound to support and uphold the Constitution and laws of the state Louisiana, and any recognition of a same-sex filing status in Louisiana as promulgated in IRS Revenue Ruling 2013-17 would be a clear violation of Louisiana’s Constitution.” Barfield’s ruling will likely lead to lawsuits against the state because it will force same-sex couples to violate another state law that requires taxpayers to use the same status and claim the same exemptions on state tax returns as they do on federal tax returns. In addition to the state Department of Revenue, officials with the Louisiana National Guard also stated that the state’s constitution bars them from processing benefits for same-sex partners.
Progress on payday lending
The New York Times editorial board writes that more must be done to protect cash-strapped, low-income individuals from predatory payday loans. These types of loans are marketed as short-term solutions for emergency purposes, but they actually force many people into cycles of debt due to high annual interest rates and balloon payments. A new study by the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonpartisan research group, found payday loans cost American families $3.4 billion in fees every year. In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found three-fourths of payday loan fees were generated from people who borrowed more than 10 times in a 12-month period. Some states have tightened the reins on payday lenders by capping annual interest rates and the number of times a person can take a payday loan, and the federal government bars payday lenders from making high interest payday loans to active military personnel and their families.
America didn’t lose the war on poverty
Unlike monthly jobs numbers, the U.S. Census Bureau releases poverty figures once per year. The next release is scheduled for Sept. 17. Many commentators and reporters will review the U.S. Census Bureau’s data and conclude America has lost the war on poverty. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, the U.S. Census Bureau’s data is only part of the story. This federal data source captures very little of the non-cash benefits impoverished families receive in aid — including food stamps, rent subsidies and tax credits for working families. These important programs successfully push some families out of poverty and help maintain a lower poverty rate today than throughout the 1960s. At the same time, CBPP notes recent declines in wages of less-educated men, increased incarceration, the growing number of single-parent families and a weakened safety net for many without jobs are pushing upwards on poverty.