Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gov Bobby Jindal “addicted” to one-time money
Bob Mann says Gov. Bobby Jindal has made a holy mess of the state budget by employing a budgetary tactic – using “one-time money” for recurring expenses – that he once denounced. In a press release dated May 7, 2008, Jindal famously said one-time money was like using a credit card to pay the mortgage, and that it represents “a Failure to stand up for the taxpayers we were elected to serve.” But as Mann writes in his weekly column, the governor quickly reversed course and has spent the majority of his two terms balancing the budget with various gimmicks such as selling state assets and redirecting hurricane relief dollars. As a result, several state trust funds are on track to being empty by 2015, and Gov. Jindal’s predecessor will likely face a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall.

“Of course, none of this is what Jindal and legislators envisioned in 2008 when they finished a process – begun by Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the previous Legislature – of cutting income taxes by about $600 million a year, much of which went to wealthier taxpayers. Jindal also presided over a $250 million annual business utility tax repeal. Most of those tax cuts took effect in 2009, which triggered another huge dip in state revenue.

“Why didn’t revenues eventually rebound after the economy began improving? Well, because of tax cuts alone, we’re collecting $850 million less each year. And Louisiana’s budget is heavily dependent on regressive sales taxes, which economic studies indicate don’t respond quickly to economic growth.

“Whatever the reasons, when revenues failed to rebound, Jindal and lawmakers continued to tap one-time money, to the point they’ll now consider no solution beyond spending temporary revenue and imposing deep budget cuts.”

Senate committee rejects minimum wage proposal
Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana workers will continue to earn sub-poverty wages after the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations on Thursday unanimously deferred a bill to establish a state minimum wage. Senate Bill 123 by state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, would have allowed Louisianans to vote on a constitutional amendment increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour, and would only have applied to workers in companies with at least 50 full-time employees. Louisiana is one of five states that currently do not have a minimum wage law – relying on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to protect workers. A recent report by LBP concluded that increasing the state’s minimum wage would help workers, businesses and the economy, and a poll by LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab found widespread support among voters for increasing the state’s minimum wage. Still, SB 123 suffered the same faith as several other bills debated in the House Labor Committee on April 11.

Voting rates among young Louisiana voters higher than national average
Some good news from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey: Louisiana voters age 18-29 had a higher voting rate than young voters nationally during the 2012 presidential election. While the average national voting rate for young adults was 45 percent (and 66 percent for adults aged 30 or older), voting rates for Louisianans under aged 29 was 52.8 percent (and 69.9 percent for adults aged 30 or older). The findings are significant because younger Americans tend to have more progressive public policy views than older voters – especially on topics regarding marriage equality, pay equality, legalized marijuana and immigration. Louisiana is one of 14 states with voting rates significantly higher than the national average, which the study attributes to high voting rates among the general population.

Food for thought: Meeting the Challenges of Nonstandard Work Schedules
Roughly 28 million Americans – one in every five workers – earn a living by working nonstandard hours, including nights and weekends. According to a recent blog post by Maria Enchautegui of the Urban Institute, most of these workers (60 percent) earn less than the median wage of the typical American worker. They also face challenges in securing child care, finding reliable transportation to work and taking unscheduled time off to deal with personal emergencies. These workers face increased health risks too, as they are more likely to be injured on the job, suffer from high stress and be sleep deprived. Enchautegui says employers, policymakers and support systems like schools should do a better job acknowledging these challenges and work to resolve challenges – especially because eight of the 10 occupations with the highest share of nonstandard schedules are among the 30 occupations expected to grow most rapidly by 2020.

Number of the Day
$982.5 million
– The amount of one-time money in the state budget for fiscal year 2015 that won’t be available for use in the state budget for fiscal year 2016. (Source: Legislative Fiscal Office)