Thursday, May 8, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Jindal administration nears deal on hospital financing; State budget scheduled for floor debate; State taxes not the main factor in deciding where to move; Legislative efforts at TOPS reform continue; and Senate backs raising retirement age. 2 - The percentage of U.S. residents who relocate across state lines each year. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

Jindal administration nears deal on hospital financing
Louisiana is getting close to a deal with federal health authorities on financing the public-private hospital partnerships that were thrown into question last week. Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert told The Advocate that an agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sprung from a conference call this week.

“CMS … indicated that we are not far off from reaching an agreement for an acceptable reimbursement methodology,” Kliebert said in a statement after the meeting. Kliebert said the state will have to submit revised plan amendments ‘that more clearly show the relationship between reimbursement rates and utilization of services for uninsured and Medicaid patients.’”

State budget scheduled for floor debate
The $25 billion state budget will take center stage today in the House of Representatives. Legislators have a long road ahead of them as they try to make ends meet with a spending plan that’s loaded with one-time money and threatened by the federal government’s rejection of the public hospital privatization plan. Unless that decision is overturned on appeal, Louisiana would be on the hook for at least $200 million by September 2015.

The Associated Press reports: “The governor’s top budget adviser has told lawmakers there’s no immediate disruption to money for the hospitals and is asking for no changes to the health care budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.”

State taxes not the main factor in deciding where to move
A state’s tax rate has little or no bearing on where people decide to locate, according to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Employment opportunities, proximity to family and nice weather are far more likely to determine Americans’ migration:

Accordingly, policymakers in states like Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin that have already cut or are considering cutting their income taxes should harbor no illusions that such a move will stem — let alone reverse — their states’ longstanding net out-migration trends. To the contrary; if deep tax cuts result in significant deterioration in education, public safety, parks, roads, and other critical services and infrastructure, these states will render themselves less — not more — desirable places to live and raise a family.”

Legislative efforts at TOPS reform continue
Numerous bills have been filed this year to reform or restructure the TOPS college scholarship program, and most appear to be going nowhere. One exception is Senate Bill 520 by Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, which would tighten academic requirements to receive the full-tuition scholarships, and plow some of the savings into need-based scholarships for low-income students. The bill made it out of the Senate Education Committee last week and faces a showdown vote on the Senate floor today.

Critics of TOPS say the program is far more generous than what’s offered in other states, and has become an entitlement program for middle- and upper-class families who can afford to pay for college (40 percent of recipients hail from families with incomes above $100,000). But it has become a sacred cow at the state Capitol, where every year legislators shoot down attempts to cap the scholarship awards or raise the academic standards. The latest failed attempt came from Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, whose House Bill 1153 would have required a 3.0 grade point average (up from 2.5) and a 22 ACT score (up from 20) to qualify for free tuition.  “It also would have changed the structure of the scholarship payments so that freshmen were funded for 80 percent of tuition, sophomores for 90 percent of tuition, juniors for 100 percent and seniors for 120 percent,” The Advocate reports.

Senate backs raising retirement age
The Louisiana Senate has unanimously backed a bill that would raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 for public school teachers and many new state employees. The measure is now headed back to the House for approval of changes made on the Senate side.

“The bill by Republican Rep. Kevin Pearson, of Slidell, would require non-hazardous employees hired on or after July 1, 2015, to wait until they are 62 years old before they are eligible for retirement.”

2 - The percentage of U.S. residents who relocate across state lines each year. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)