Film industry supporters continue to rally behind expensive tax breaks
A new committee created by the Legislature last year will spend the next year looking at the future viability of Louisiana’s generous subsidies for the entertainment industry. Since being instituted early this century, these subsidies – led by the most generous film incentives in the country – have ballooned in cost and are crowding out spending on other state priorities such as higher education and health care. As Nola.com writes, Last year, the entertainment tax breaks came under attack as the state contemplated a slim budget and implemented cuts to essential services like higher education. The ballooning expense of the program made it a target for budget hawks. Film industry officials fear that their credit can suffer the same fate as solar energy tax credits, which the Legislature voted to phase out last year after the program became too costly to the state. Louisiana spent $231 million on film subsidies in 2011 alone— a 29 percent increase over the previous fiscal year — compared to spending $39 million on wind and solar energy tax credits from 2006 through 2011.
Lawmakers, education leaders clash on Common Core
Legislators and state education officials debated the merits of new federal education standards called Common Core for nearly four hours on Monday. Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education president Chas Roemer say the state’s participation in the program is crucial for raising the performance standards for Louisiana students. But a host of elected officials from both sides of the aisle remarked that rollout of the standards has left parents frustrated, students confused and educators feeling unsupported. White and Roemer countered that they were aware of these issues — particularly in rural schools that don’t have the technology to prepare students for the new standards — and are considering a backup plan for these schools that will be presented in December.
80,000 Louisianans will lose sub-standard health care coverage
Approximately 4 percent of Louisianans buy health insurance on the individual market. Of those 165,000 individuals, nearly 80,000 will see their policies cancelled in 2014 because the policies don’t meet minimum requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The new federal health care law mandates insurance plans to offer 10 essential health benefits, and insurance plans that don’t meet these guidelines are subject to cancellation.
Letter: California surplus tied to tax increase
A letter writer in Tuesday’s Advocate adroitly challenges the conservative trope that tax cuts always lead to economic growth by pointing to California. The Golden State has managed to solve its chronic budget shortfalls by – gasp! — asking more from its wealthiest taxpayers. “Well guess what: California’s economy is rising again,” writes Brian Salvatore, of Shreveport. “Five years after being crushed by the Great Recession, California is generating billions of dollars in annual budget surpluses, despite the fact that Californians pay more taxes than we do. Ironically, it was a tax increase two years ago that hastened California’s present economic recovery.
“How did California achieve this success? Because Californians realize that you cannot get something for nothing; that you have to invest in education, transportation infrastructure, health care and a knowledge-based economy for your citizens.”
Poverty affects half of all Americans
New research by Washington University professor Mark R. Rank finds that half of all Americans will spend a portion of their life below the official poverty line. As Rank writes in The New York Times, My research indicates that nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience at least one year below the official poverty line during that period ($23,492 for a family of four), and 54 percent will spend a year in poverty or near poverty (below 150 percent of the poverty line). Even more astounding, if we add in related conditions like welfare use, near-poverty and unemployment, four out of five Americans will encounter one or more of these events. In addition, half of all American children will at some point during their childhood reside in a household that uses food stamps for a period of time. Put simply, poverty is a mainstream event experienced by a majority of Americans. For most of us, the question is not whether we will experience poverty, but when.