Monday, Nov. 25

Monday, Nov. 25

Louisiana adds jobs in October, mostly in low-wage sectors; Searching for lessons in 5th Congressional District; he South’s new lost cause; Pensions, budget woes contribute to low La ranking on “best run” states; State seeks to collect $1.2 million in Ethics Board violations; and Sequestration gets worse in 2014. $1.2 million – The amount owed by hundreds of candidates, lobbyists and political action committees in ethics fines (Source: NOLA.com and WVUE Fox 8 News)

Louisiana adds jobs in October, mostly in low-wage sectors
Louisiana added 8,600 nonfarm jobs in October, marking the eighth time this year that month-to-month job performance has increased. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jump in nonfarm employment brings total employment in the Pelican State to an all-time high of 1.966 million. While that’s certainly good news, a deeper look inside the numbers reveals that job growth is concentrated in low-wage sectors. Nearly 40 percent of the jobs created last month in Louisiana were in sectors like leisure, hospitality, education and health services — sectors that pay some of the lowest wages in the state. A few high-paying industries like business services experienced modest gains, while the state shed 1,000 manufacturing jobs last month. Furthermore, Louisiana still needs 81,900 more jobs to regain its pre-recession employment rate – which means producing at least 3,500 jobs per month for the next three years.

Searching for lessons in 5th Congressional District 
Political analysts continued to comb for meaning in newcomer Vance McAllister’s 20-point rout of state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, in the 5th Congressional District special election. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte writes: Critics of Gov. Bobby Jindal see McAllister’s win for the vacant congressional seat as a referendum against the governor, whose approval ratings remain steadily below 50 percent. … Democratic Party leaders and supporters of Medicaid expansion see McAllister’s victory as a sign of support for the expansion allowed under the federal health care overhaul, since McAllister supported it while Riser opposed it and ran campaign ads attacking McAllister’s position. Republican Party leaders suggest the win is a repudiation of Democratic policies and beliefs, since no Democratic candidate even made the runoff.

The Advocate’s Mark Ballard chimed in too: Placing the blame for state Sen. Neil Riser’s 20-point loss solely on Jindal marginalizes the coalition Vance McAllister put together to support a conservative agenda that relies on respect and practicality rather than invective and scorched-earth tactics. That said, the governor’s job performance ratings remain low, particularly in the northeast and central parishes that make up the bulk of the 5th Congressional District, Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat says. His annual survey of 600 likely Louisiana voters from around the state, released Thursday, found Jindal’s “ratings continue to languish.”

The South’s new lost cause
Southern states that rejected Medicaid expansion are once again taking a backward path as the rest of the nation moves forward. Those are the comments of New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, who says Southern states that rejected federal Medicaid expansion are dooming themselves and their citizens. Despite being the country’s poorest region, most states below the Mason Dixon line have turned down the opportunity to expand Medicaid – even though the expansion is proven to help low-wage earners, state taxpayers and state economies. Egan writes: What we could see, 10 years from now, is a Mason-Dixon line of health care. One side (with exceptions for conservative Midwest and mountain states) would be the insured North, a place where health care coverage was affordable and available to most people. On the other side would be the uninsured South, where health care for the poor would amount to treating charity cases in hospital emergency rooms.

Pensions, budget woes contribute to low La ranking on “best run” states
Louisiana’s high rate of poverty, chronic budget shortfalls and ailing state pension systems contributed to Louisiana ranking 44th on a list of “best run” states. The list, compiled by 247wallst.com, gives Louisiana props for a relatively healthy housing market but notes that educational attainment and health insurance coverage lag far behind the rest of the country. While there is relatively little the state can do in the short term to move the needle on poverty and high school completion, Louisiana also gets demerits for its hamfisted approach to budgeting:  The state’s finances are also in bad shape. Just over 55% of the state’s pension obligations were funded in 2012, fourth-worst in the country. And the state had to close a budget gap of more than 25% going into fiscal 2012. The average gap across the states was 15.5% that year. In first place: North Dakota, which is in the midst of an energy boom. California, with high rates of unemployment and public debt and a massive budget deficit in 2012 (which has since been solved with a combination of cuts and revenue increases) comes in last place.

State seeks to collect $1.2 million in Ethics Board violations
The new state Office of Debt Recovery will seek to recover fines owed by hundreds of candidates, lobbyists and political action committees that ran afoul of Louisiana’s campaign finance regulations. The initiative recommended by state Treasurer John Kennedy will allow the state to pursue bank accounts and state licenses of debtors, which exceed $1.2 million. NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News published the list of offenders online, which can be found by clicking here. Kennedy says the vast majority of fines are related to late filings of campaign contribution reports. A large portion of fines is also related to the filing of personal financial disclosure forms, which list income and assets of some public officials and political appointees. The state expects a substantial portion of the fines to be paid by late February.

Sequestration gets worse in 2014
The automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration will get worse next year, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress. CAP writes that allowing sequestration to continue through fiscal year 2014 could result in the loss of 800,000 jobs and a 0.6 percent drop in gross domestic product.  The report highlights four key factors behind the more devastating effects:  the cuts will be larger in 2014 compared to 2013, many cuts from 2013 will be implemented in 2014, one-time money that mitigated sequestration’s worst impacts in 2013 cannot be used again next year, and cuts to critical functions of government will be more devastating if they are not reversed in the near future.

Upcoming LBP Events
LBP and PolicyLink are hosting a Twitter chat on “Protecting Your Paycheck: The Pitfalls of Payday Lending” 1 p.m. Dec. 12 using the hashtag #protecturpay.

$1.2 million – The amount owed by hundreds of candidates, lobbyists and political action committees in ethics fines (Source: NOLA.com and WVUE Fox 8 News)