Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

TOPS reform fails to get out of committee, What’s the matter with Kansas? LBP featured on “Louisiana Public Square,” and Call for Constitutional Convention fails in Louisiana. $300 million - The estimated price tag for TOPS by 2016 (Source:  The Advocate)

TOPS reform fails to get out of committee
The annual fight over restraining the runaway growth of the TOPS scholarship program hit a predictable roadblock Wednesday in the House Education Committee, when House Bill 385 was involuntarily deferred. According to the Baton Rouge Business Report, the bill would have “raised the eligibility standards from 20 to 22 for ACT scores. It would have also capped awards at $1,600 per semester and required partial repayment for students who lose eligibility.” Other legislators who had bills to limit the TOPS program on the agenda chose to voluntarily defer their bills.

The program’s popularity has grown consistently since its inception, as has its price tag — from $40 million in the late 1990s to $217 million this year.  Many of the beneficiaries are average students from families that can afford tuition. While TOPS has grown, funding for need-based Go Grant scholarships have remained stagnant, even as tuition has grown, meaning it’s become more difficult for Louisianans to pull themselves out of poverty.

What’s the matter with Kansas?
From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities comes additional evidence that Louisiana legislators did the right thing last year when they forced Gov. Bobby Jindal to pull the plug on his disruptive tax-shift scheme. A new report looks at what’s happened in Kansas since that state enacted massive income-tax cuts two years ago with promises that it would turbo-charge the economy. In fact, the cuts have been a boon to the wealthy while compromising Kansas’ ability to pay for schools and other basic services. “In truth, Kansas is a cautionary tale, not a model.  As other states recover from the recent recession and turn toward the future, Kansas’ huge tax cuts have left that state’s schools and other public services stuck in the recession, and declining further — a serious threat to the state’s long-term economic vitality. Meanwhile, promises of immediate economic improvement have utterly failed to materialize.”

LBP featured on “Louisiana Public Square”
The statewide public-affairs program “Louisiana Public Square” devoted this month’s installment to the burgeoning debate over the minimum wage, and whether Louisiana should raise its wage above the federal $7.25 an hour so that full-time workers could earn enough to keep their families above the poverty line. LBP policy analyst David Gray was a featured panelist on the show, along with state Rep. Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria, economist Robert Hebert and Jim Patterson of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. A pre-taped segment that preceded the debate featured LBP Director Jan Moller.

Click here to watch the program in its entirety. For background, you can read Gray’s report, “Louisiana Needs a Higher Wage.”

Call for Constitutional Convention fails in Louisiana
A resolution calling for a federal Constitutional convention was struck down Wednesday by a House Committee. House Concurrent Resolution 15  would have allowed Louisiana to call for and participate in a constitutional convention of the states, failed to pass the House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs. Similar proposals have either been passed or are being considered in 38 other states.  The movement aims to accomplish three things: “limit the size of the federal government; impose fiscal constraints on federal spending; and enact term limits for federal public officials, including members of Congress.”

But as LBP’s Steve Spires noted in committee testimony, such a convention could have serious unintended consequences, as it would open up the entire U.S. Constitution to a full overhaul.

$300 million - The estimated price tag for TOPS by 2016 (Source:  The Advocate)