Shreveport rallies for payday lending reform
Pressure is mounting on a pair of Shreveport-area legislators to support legislation pending in a Senate committee that would cap the number of payday loans that borrowers could take out in a year. Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover joined Northern and Central Louisiana Interfaith in front of the state Office Building in support of Senate Bill 84, which would cap the number of payday loans an individual could take out to 10 per year. The bill by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, started out trying to cap annual interest rates at 36 percent, and the 10-loan cap represents an industry-friendly compromise. Glover said payday lenders don’t have to adhere to the regulations that banks, credit unions and even pawn shops have to meet. “We believe that it represents, unfortunately, a part of a cycle of poverty of an existence … that continues to build and build and put people in situations and circumstances that result in financial failure,” Glover said. The Rev. Aaron Dobynes, pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church in Shreveport, called on Shreveport Sens. Greg Tarver (D) and Sherri Buffington (R) to support the measure, which could be heard in the Senate Finance Committee as early as Monday.
Additional data on TOPS recipients may be collected
Costs of the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), the state’s free college tuition program for above-average high school graduates, have skyrocketed in recent years as tuition has ballooned to make up for massive state budget cuts. But any attempts to change the program – either through higher academic standards, capping the awards or taking financial need into consideration – have been derailed by the program’s supporters. And some of those supporters now suspect ulterior motives in a bill by Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, which calls for more data collection about TOPS recipients. As Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, told Nola.com: “Just say the truth about why you are doing it,” said Claitor in an interview about the bill. “This goes down the path of massaging it from merit to something else.”
Federal grant programs available for workforce development
President Barak Obama announced $600 million in federal funds will be available through grant programs aimed at preparing the American workforce for continuing advances in technology that require more skilled workers. The grants fall into to two categories: “The first, to which $500 million is being dedicated, is a competitive process that seeks the best programs linking community colleges with businesses. The idea is to expand the programs nationally, in part by linking them with industry associations. The other is also competitive and provides $100 million in grants to expand apprentice programs across the country. The United States has far fewer apprentice positions than do European nations, which look to on-the-job training as vital to maintaining capable workforces.”
Report offers guidance on structure and use of state rainy day funds
A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers guidance on the best timing for replenishing rainy day funds, and makes suggestions for structural changes. “It is still premature for states to act aggressively to refill the funds; until their revenues rise well above pre-recession levels, unemployment has declined further, and they have restored programs cut during the recession, states shouldn’t make rapid replenishment of rainy day funds a priority. On the other hand, states can act right away to make structural improvements in their rainy day funds to prepare for inevitable future downturns, such as by raising overly restrictive caps on fund size.”
In Louisiana, the Legislature must come up with $356 million by July 1, 2016, to replenish money that was taken from the Budget Stabilization Fund during the Great Recession and the slow recovery that has followed.