Legislators question lack of state revenue
It seems that hardly a week goes by that Gov. Jindal or Secretary of Economic Development Stephen Moret don’t announce a project that will bring new jobs to Louisiana. Now members of the House Appropriations committee want to know why state tax revenue — especially from the corporate income tax — remains depressed, forcing cuts to critical services like higher education and health care. Moret pointed a finger at the still weak national economy, but also noted that the use of tax exemptions have grown by $1.5 billion since 2008, leaving little room for any other priorities, reports the Associated Press. In particular, the price tag of the state’s incredibly generous film tax credit program has spiked, costing taxpayers more than $200 million last year, according to Moret.
The lack of adequate revenue harms Louisiana’s ability to invest in the future. For example, Sen. Ben Nevers has proposed a bill — Senate Bill 50 — to provide universal early education to Louisiana’s four-year olds. With an annual cost of $132 million, the bill has little chance of passing in the current tight budget environment, even though there is b-partisan agreement that investing in the youngest children brings a high return on investment through improved academic performance, reduced crime and increased lifetime earnings. Martis Jones with the Academic Distinction Fund wrote in a letter to the Advocate that every dollar spent on early childhood education brings $7 or $8 in benefits.
Just to review: A Louisiana tax dollar invested in film or TV production brings a 16 cent return on investment. The same tax dollar invested in young children yields $8 in long-term benefits.
Common Core leads to split among conservative education reformers
Gov. Bobby Jindal had remained oddly silent while state Superintendent of Education John White continued to defend and praise new accountability measures known as “Common Core” in the face opposition from Tea Party groups. But on Monday night, the governor released a statement denouncing “federal, one size fits all testing,” though he did not call for Common Core repeal, the Advocate reports.
Common Core supporters note the education standards were not created by the federal government, but a consortium of state education leaders, and say they are integral to improve the quality of education in Louisiana. Opponents claim the new standards are a backdoor attempt to federalize curriculums and textbooks. Dozens of bills have been filed in the Legislature to block of repeal the standards, which are generally supported by the state’s business community.
Then, on Tuesday, Jindal ally and head of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chas Roemer said the governor “probably needs to rethink that statement and what the ramifications are,” according to the Advocate. Gov. Jindal, White and Roemer presented a unified front in 2012 when they were pushing to expand school vouchers statewide and make changes to teacher tenure laws. But now, it appears that tension over the politicization of Common Core have created the unusual public rift.
Gov. Jindal says NYC Mayor de Blasio is fighting a “war for poverty”
In a column for the New York Post, Gov. Bobby Jindal claimed that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s opposition to charter schools is denying African-American children from low-income families a chance to escape poverty, and pointed to his signature voucher program as an example of what states and cities should be doing. The governor also slammed the War on Poverty — which included the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start, other anti-poverty initiatives and civil rights legislation — as a failed policy that created “massive” government programs while doing little to lift living standards.
However, the evidence is quite clear that the War on Poverty has successfully kept millions of Americans out of poverty and has improved the health and education of children from low-income families. Unfortunately, due to a decades-long decline in wages, income inequality, persistent racial disparities and the worst economic downtown since the Great Recession, poverty remains higher than it should be. But there is no doubt that without important supports like Medicaid and food stamps, economic hardship would be much worse in Louisiana.
Louisiana has third-highest sales tax rates in the nation
The conservative Tax Foundation’s annual sales tax survey found once again that Louisiana has the third highest combined state and local sales tax in the country, an average 8.89 percent, depending on the parish. Only Tennessee and Arkansas have higher sales taxes. High sales taxes are the primary reason that the state’s tax system is so regressive. Even with necessities like groceries, utilities and prescription drugs exempt from taxation, Louisiana’s poorest families pay almost twice as much in taxes as the wealthiest when measured as a percentage of household income.