Monday, Feb. 3, 2014

Monday, Feb. 3, 2014

Minimum wage increase would be big step in Louisiana; Jindal tries to cut criticism in his budget proposal; Kennedy says state can save money by implementing commission’s recommendation; Jindal proposes saving $20 million by consolidating IT services; Lawmaker aims to stop Tulane and LSU, Southern board scholarships; and ree “Inequality for All” screening on Thursday. 1.17 million – The number of children whose parents would be directly or indirectly affected by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour (Source: The Advocate)

Minimum wage increase would be big step in Louisiana
A couple of follow-up points from that long, excellent front page article in Saturday’s Advocate about the possible impacts of raising the minimum wage in Louisiana:

  • Pat Felder, who owns an auto parts business in Baton Rouge and is active in the National Federation of Independent Businesses, threw cold water on the notion that a higher minimum wage would be a job-killer. Felder, who pays her 10 employees the poverty-level wage of $7.25 an hour, complained that if the minimum is raised to $10.10 an hour it would cut into her profit margins – not lead to layoffs, as some critics charge.
  • Farther down in the story we hear from Loren Scott, the retired LSU economist, who trots out the other bit of misinformation commonly used by minimum-wage critics: that most people who make the minimum are teens working part-time jobs at the mall. “You’ll have fewer people employed and primarily it will be teenagers,” Scott said. Had Scott bothered to check his facts, he would have known that while minimum wage workers tend to be younger, less than a quarter are teens and the majority live in families making less than $40,000 per year, meaning their wages likely contribute to daily household expenses and aren’t just extra spending money. In fact, more than half of the workers impacted by a $10.10 hourly minimum would be over aged 29, and more than 1.17 million children have a parent who would benefit from a higher wage.

Jindal tries to cut criticism in his budget proposal
After years of controversial budget cuts and financial gimmicks, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent budget proposal is seen by some as a way to quiet the critics by restoring money in key areas, the Associated Press reports. The latest budget includes new dollars for higher education, K-12 schools, people with disabilities and state workers. But questions remain about how the state will pay for these things. So far, Jindal’s only promise to lawmakers is that the recurring expenditures won’t be paid for by one-time money. Some of the governor’s proposals are already facing criticism. A deeper look inside the higher education numbers shows that there’s less to the governor’s proposal than what meets the eye, while his proposed funding increase for developmentally disabled services is under federal review.

Kennedy says state can save money by implementing commission’s recommendation
Rather than spending millions of taxpayer dollars to hire private contractor that will identify efficiencies in state government, State Treasurer John Kennedy says the Jindal administration should fully implement recommendations put forth by the state’s Commission on Streamlining Government a few years ago. More than half of the commission’s 238 recommendations have either been implemented or are in the process of being implemented, but the Legislature nixed several of the recommendations — including one to create regional “one-stop shops” for state government services and another that would give the Legislature more oversight of hiring at the state’s public colleges and universities. Kennedy says the nixed or partially implemented recommendations represent “an abundant resource” as the state seeks to become more efficient.

Jindal proposes saving $20 million by consolidating IT services
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief budget adviser told lawmakers that the administration seeks to save $20 million by creating a new Office of Technology Services under the Division of Administration. The new office would consolidate technology staff and contracts for all cabinet departments into one state agency. It would have a $280 million budget, and would charge various fees for services to cover costs. The move will realign more than 800 state employees. While none of the positions will be eliminated, Nichols does expect some current employees to retire during the transition.

Lawmaker aims to stop Tulane and LSU, Southern board scholarships
State Representative Dee Richard, I-Thibodaux, wants to end several controversial scholarship programs. The first is Tulane University’s legislative scholarship, which allows each state legislator to award an annual $43,150 scholarship to the state’s most expensive university. The legislative scholarships have been heavy criticism for their lack of transparency and potentially serving as political kickbacks. State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, has already filed legislation that would ban elected officials from giving the awards to relatives and political donors, and would require legislators to publicize the scholarships availability and who receives them. In addition to the Tulane scholarships, Richard also would like to file legislation stripping LSU and Southern University boards of supervisors’ members’ ability to award scholarships.

Free “Inequality for All” screening on Thursday
LBP invites you to attend a free screening of the film “Inequality for All” on Thursday, Feb. 6 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. Light refreshments will be served at 5 p.m., and 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.

1.17 million – The number of children whose parents would be directly or indirectly affected by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour (Source: The Advocate)