Feb. 27, 2014

Feb. 27, 2014

Failure to expand Medicaid has big implications for Louisianans with mental illness; Graduate schools feel the pain of higher education cuts; Many top U.S. companies pay higher taxes overseas than at home; Kennedy still wants consulting contracts on the chopping block; and “Special Attorney General” Hired to Defend Gay Marriage Ban in Louisiana. 725 million — The 2015 budget approved by coastal authorities for levee and coastal restoration work. (Source: NOLA.com)

Failure to expand Medicaid has big implications for Louisianans with mental illness
A new report by the American Mental Health Counselors Association says that as many as 163,000 Louisianans with mental illness could receive health coverage if Louisiana expanded Medicaid. The study found that 2.7 million adults, or nearly 75 percent of all uninsured people with a mental health condition or substance use disorder who are eligible for coverage live in 11 Southern states that have rejected the Medicaid Expansion: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.”

Graduate schools feel the pain of higher education cuts
From The Advocate comes the story of a little-known program that lets universities around the state pool their resources to access advanced research technologies. Louisiana is skimping on universities’ research budgets, making it more difficult to train graduate students. The Louisiana Online University Information System, or LOUIS, has been around for more than two decades helps the state save money by using its bulk purchasing power to buy access to powerful research tools such as Lexis/Nexis and Engineering Village. But the state is only financing 12 percent of the program’s cost, down from 70 percent in 2009, and college administrators say it’s time to change that. “’Further cuts to LOUIS could stifle schools’ ability to produce qualified graduates in the fields that are anticipated to move the state’s economy forward,’  [Executive Director of LOUIS Sara] Zimmerman cautions. ‘It also could hurt some of the economic development gains Gov. Bobby Jindal’s team has brought to the state, including the planned IBM complex and the coastal research center both being built in downtown Baton Rouge.’”

Many top U.S. companies pay higher taxes overseas than at home
The next time a cable TV commentator complains that America’s corporate tax rate is too high and needs to be cut be cut for the sake of economic competitiveness, keep this in mind: Many of the largest and most profitable American companies paid little or no income tax over the last five years, and often pay a higher rate on their overseas operations. That’s from a new report by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Research: Our report examines the Fortune 500 corporations that have been consistently profitable for the previous five years and finds that as a group they paid just 19.4 percent of their profits in U.S. income taxes over the five-year period, while a third paid less than 10 percent. Several well-known companies paid no U.S. income taxes at all over the five-year period studied — including General Electric, Verizon, Priceline, Boeing, Corning and 21 other profitable corporations.

By sheer coincidence, the report came out the same day as the chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee laid out an ambitious plan to shrink the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Kennedy still wants consulting contracts on the chopping block
State Treasurer John Kennedy will once again ask the legislature to cut state consulting contracts by 10 percent. It’s the fourth year in a row Kennedy has called for an across-the-board cut, with the previous three attempts having failed to win favor with legislators. The difference this year: Kennedy wants to dedicate the $528 million in estimated savings to higher education. “‘Our state departments could reduce spending by getting rid of the less important contracts. We’re only asking the governor to do what businesses do every single day. This would generate $530 million a year in recurring revenue, and that money can be dedicated to higher education which has been cut to the bone,’ Kennedy said.”

“Special Attorney General” Hired to Defend Gay Marriage Ban in Louisiana
Fresh on the heels of a decision by a federal judge to strike down Texas’s ban on gay marriage, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell   hired an outside attorney whose sole job will be to defend Louisiana’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.The Louisiana Constitution is a sober expression of the will of the citizens of Louisiana and I intend to defend every sentence in it,” Caldwell said in a statement. “To that end, I’ve retained Kyle Duncan, a nationally renowned expert in this area of the law, to assist this office in our defense of the Constitution of Louisiana.

725 million — The 2015 budget approved by coastal authorities for levee and coastal restoration work. (Source: NOLA.com)