Friday, Jan. 17, 2014

Friday, Jan. 17, 2014

New York City launches “antipoverty experiment”; Louisiana’s chief economists “unfettered by political spin”; Delay in flood insurance premiums heading to White House desk; Jindal issues state hiring freeze; Former state Sen. Chris Ullo passes away at 85; and LBP hosts free screening of “Inequality for All,” featuring Rob Reich. 32,000 – The number of Louisiana policyholders will benefit from delayed federal flood insurance hikes as part of the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill (Source: The Advocate)

New York City launches “antipoverty experiment”
New York City officials have decided to challenge a longstanding notion that the job market alone will provide for the needs of nearly all workers. City leaders launched an antipoverty experiment this year to determine what would happen if the government were to help adults without children. As The New York Times writes, “[The experiment will] track 6,000 low-income single adults who do not have direct responsibility over children — from never-married childless women to divorced fathers who don’t have custody of their children but are obligated to pay child support. Half of them will receive a bonus payment every year intended to replicate the main features of the earned-income tax credit. The other half will serve as a control group. The hope is that the tax break will do for singles what it has achieved most successfully for single mothers: shoring up workers who suffer a drop in earnings and encouraging work by subsidizing the meager wages that have become the hallmark of the American service economy.”

Louisiana’s chief economists “unfettered by political spin”
Greg Albrecht takes pride in letting the numbers speak for themselves. As the Legislature’s chief economist, Albrecht is tasked with forecasting state revenues, writing fiscal notes for lawmakers’ bills and serving as a resource for legislators, reporters and members of the public who inquire about the state budget. Unlike some others in the Legislative Fiscal Office, Albrecht is very comfortable about talking publically – even when his remarks criticize proposals from the governor and lawmakers. For example, Albrecht has openly criticized the use of taxpayer dollars to lure a Sasol chemical plan to Louisiana. While the project is expected to generate between $16 billion and $21 billion in revenue, Albrecht believes it will at best be a wash due to the state’s generous financial incentives. Regardless of his stance on issues, legislators overwhelmingly appreciate the fact that Albrecht’s analysis is unfettered by politics.

Delay in flood insurance premiums heading to White House desk
The U.S. Senate approved a $1.1 trillion omnibus federal budget bill on Thursday, which contained a provision that delays flood insurance rate hikes until 2015 for some Louisiana homeowners. As The Advocate reports, “The one-year delay specifically impacts the 32,000 or so policyholders in Louisiana — more nationwide — who had voluntarily bought flood insurance and were later drawn into maps outlining areas that could flood, thereby dramatically increasing the cost of the policies. The bill also delays the implementation of rate hikes for some being mapped into areas now considered to have greater flood risks. The bill does not address other NFIP premium increases or the “trigger” that automatically raises the rates, sometimes dramatically, when a property sells, at least for homes and businesses sold after July 6, 2012.”

Meanwhile, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner told The Associated Press that the Republican-controlled House would not consider a bill to delay insurance premium increases for four years. Boehner said in a press release that he does not agree with repealing the 2012 Biggert-Waters flood insurance law, but is open to more modest changes if possible.

Jindal issues state hiring freeze
Gov. Bobby Jindal issued another state hiring freeze this week in an effort to save $7 million. State elected officials, the Louisiana Legislature, public college systems and jobs that provide direct patient care and law enforcement are exempt from the mandate. Jindal has repeatedly used hiring freezes and termination of government jobs to ease the state budget during difficult years. As a result, the number of state employees is currently at a 20-year low. State workforce reductions made headlines last week after the Legislative Fiscal Office reported that wait times at OMV offices multiplied in recent years due to shrinking staffing levels.

Former state Sen. Chris Ullo passes away at 85
Retired state Sen. Chris Ullo, D-Marrero, passed away on Thursday at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie. He was 85. As reports, “A lifelong resident of Marrero, Mr. Ullo served 35 years in office before term limits forced him to retire from his 8th District Senate seat in 2008. Throughout his career, he considered crime and education his priorities, and his bills reflected that platform. He sponsored measures to use gambling revenue to finance a statewide computer fingerprint system to better track criminals, backed increased pay for teachers and advocated an expansion of vocational-technical education programs.”

LBP hosts free screening of “Inequality for All,” featuring Rob Reich
LBP invites you to attend a free screening of the film “Inequality for All” on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the Baton Rouge Kress Gallery (447 3rd St., Baton Rouge). The film (you can view the trailer here) is narrated by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and discusses how the massive consolidation of wealth by a few has a devastating impact on our economy and on the foundation of American democracy itself. With the 2014 legislative session fast approaching, this is a unique opportunity to discuss solutions to one of the most pressing issues of our time. The film will start promptly at 5:30 p.m., followed by a post-screening Q&A. Seating is limited and available on a first come first serve basis. Please RSVP here so we can provide an adequate amount of refreshments. Note that an RSVP does not ensure a seat at the event.

32,000 – The number of Louisiana policyholders will benefit from delayed federal flood insurance hikes as part of the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill (Source: The Advocate)