Thursday, Sept. 26

Thursday, Sept. 26

Health insurance policy costs explained; Corporate tax credits, refunds and deductions are greater than collections; Higher education leaders demand stable funding; Online charter schools failing; and Baton Rouge Area Chamber defends Common Core. $455.7 million – The total cut in state support for higher education since last year, a 46.5 percent decrease from 2012. (Source: Nola.com)

Health insurance policy costs explained
With online marketplaces set to launch next week, the federal government on Wednesday laid out details of what people can expect to pay for health coverage starting next year. Overall premiums are 16 percent lower than projections and will vary by age, family size, income and the level of coverage selected. Tax credits will be available to cushion the cost for people with low and moderate incomes. The biggest winners will be people with chronic diseases or other pre-existing conditions, who are virtually impossible to insure in the current marketplace but will have access to affordable coverage starting Jan. 1. The losers will be Louisiana adults below the federal poverty line, who would have been eligible for Medicaid expansion had the governor and Legislature elected to take advantage of that coverage opportunity. The Advocate details the premium costs, while the Monroe News-Star looks at the winners and losers.

Corporate tax credits, refunds and deductions are greater than collections
Louisiana companies paid $217.9 million in income taxes from April through June 2013, a roughly a 14 percent drop from the $253.5 million the state collected during the same period in 2012. While year-to-year fluctuations in corporate tax revenue is not new, the drop in Louisiana is alarming since the total corporate income tax collected by all states experienced a double-digit increase. Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office chief economist Greg Albrecht told Nola.com that the decline in Louisiana stems largely from a $42 million deficit in June, caused by the state paying out more in credits, refunds and deductions than it received in revenue. LSU economist Jim Richardson also pointed out that corporate tax revenue has been well below historic norms in the state since the national recession.

Higher education leaders demand stable funding
Louisiana’s higher education leaders are making another push for more autonomy in the hopes of stabilizing funding for the state’s public colleges and universities following several consecutive years of budget cuts. As LBP reported in August, state support for public higher education has been cut by 66 percent since the 2009 fiscal year, with tuition up 74 percent over that same time frame. The current-year budget is also being propped up by $340 million in “one-time” revenues that aren’t guaranteed to be available next year. Nola.com reports that while higher education officials are planning to approach the Legislature next spring with a united plan on how to provide a stable funding source to state colleges and universities, they will likely give up on their attempts to transfer the power to increase tuition and fees back from the Legislature to the systems themselves.

Online charter schools failing
A review of state-level academic test results by Politico concludes many online school students are flunking math, science and writing tests – despite the schools attracting more taxpayer dollars from state and local governments. Politico.com writes that the schools’ test scores are so bad that even fervent advocates of online learning have begun to worry. Politico.com notes a major reason for the poor performance is the system’s structural flaws: Students can email or call teachers for help or log in to online lectures, but there’s little personal interaction. Many assignments meant to check for understanding are multiple choice; there’s no way to stop kids from looking up the answers online. And the cyber schools, which get additional funds for each student enrolled, have incentives to keep families happy, which some teachers say leads to pressure to award passing grades regardless of effort.

Baton Rouge Area Chamber defends Common Core
With the Common Core State Standards come under increasing attack from conservatives, Michael DiResto of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber tries to correct some of the misinformation being spread by opponents and notes that the business community remains in full support. “These standards are an opportunity to re-focus our K-12 education on reasoning, problem-solving, perseverance, decision-making, explanatory writing, and other skills critical to success in a twenty-first century economy,” DiResto writes. “They will provide students from the Capitol Region the tools they need to compete against students from any other state or any country in the world.

$455.7 million – The total cut in state support for higher education since last year, a 46.5 percent decrease from 2012. (Source: Nola.com)