Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Amendment would protect home-care services; Jindal’s executive budget contains non-guaranteed revenues; Louisiana job count rises, largely due to leisure and hospitality sector; and Former state health leader accepts LSU health care job with nice salary. $600 million – The projected shortfall if Jindal’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 funded   the same activities as the current year’s budget. (Source: Senate Fiscal Services Division)

Amendment would protect home-care services
The Baton Rouge Advocate looks at a constitutional amendment offered by Sen. Fred Mills that seeks to protect Medicaid dollars for home- and community-based services. The proposal was floated as a reaction to two amendments that passed the Legislature last year that would protect the funding stream for hospitals and nursing homes. “Really, there’s no other alternative but to seek this. It puts the services on the same level field as other constitutional amendments as far as programs being cut or not,” said Kay Marcel, chairwoman of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council.

The Mills amendment has support from AARP Louisiana and a broad coalition of groups that advocate for the elderly and people with disabilities, whose services will be threatened if voters decide to give special protection to hospitals and nursing homes at the polls this fall. But Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana President Robert Travis Scott said adding new constitutional protections could leave other parts of the budget more vulnerable than ever before. “Putting it in the constitution limits the options of the Legislature when it comes time to budget,” Scott said. Today, health care and higher education are the only major areas of the budget that are unprotected in times of financial stress. “Under the three amendments together, you have all health care providers protected in the constitution,” Scott said, “Obviously it squeezes out higher education more than ever before.”

Jindal’s executive budget contains non-guaranteed revenues
Legislative staffers told a House committee on Monday that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year may already be out of balance, as it contains revenue projections that are not guaranteed to materialize. For example, the governor is proposing that the Department of Agriculture and Forestry to use dedicated funds for alternative purposes; assumes that the state will raise all $88 million in new tuition payments, despite a history of never collecting the total projected tuition increase; and doesn’t pay for legal judgments against the state, which the Legislature usually sets aside $20 million to cover; and doesn’t fund merit and retirement increases for higher education staffers.

Louisiana job count rises, largely due to leisure and hospitality sector
Louisiana added about 18,000 jobs over the past year and its unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The preliminary figures show that Louisiana had 1,956,300 nonfarm payroll jobs in January, with most of the upswing coming from the low-wage leisure and hospitality sector, which added 10,000 new jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities sectors added 5,300 jobs and manufacturing ticked up by 2,700 paychecks. The only job sector to lose ground was in government, which fell by 7,200 to a total of 366,100. Gov. Bobby Jindal claimed credit for the good news, while retired LSU economist Loren Scott told The Advocate that Louisiana was well on its way to the 2 million jobs milestone before Hurricane Katrina and the national recession halted the state’s progress.

Former state health leader accepts LSU health care job with nice salary
A former long-time Department of Health and Hospitals employee who helped Jindal privatize the state’s charity hospital system accepted a $125 per hour job with LSU Health Care Services Division. According to LSU, former DHH employee Jerry Phillips will work part time to help LSU health care chief Frank Opelka successfully transition the once-public hospitals to private care. Phillips orchestrated the financial portions of the state contracts that placed nine of LSU’s 10 hospitals under private care.   

$600 million – The projected shortfall if Jindal’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 funded   the same activities as the current year’s budget. (Source: Senate Fiscal Services Division)