Friday, June 27

Friday, June 27

Fiscal year ends with unbalanced state budget; nursing homes in the spotlight; East Carroll Parish among America's "hardest" places to live; Dardenne says higher education is top priority

Fiscal year ends with unbalanced state budget
Louisiana’s fiscal year ends on Monday, but the Associated Press reports that the state has yet to collect $134 million in revenue that it was counting on to bring the $25.6 billion state budget into balance. The money was supposed to come from hospital lease payments and other piecemeal funding sources, but had not arrived in the state treasury as of midweek. “This is a hell of a way to run a railroad,” Treasurer John Kennedy told The Advocate, noting that the state still hasn’t repaid a $70 million emergency loan it took out this spring to keep the lights on in higher education.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols took a decidedly different view, arguing that while the fiscal year ends on Monday, it technically extends to Aug. 14 for accounting purposes. “Fiscal year 2014 is fully funded. Any speculation to the contrary has no basis in fact,” Nichols said in a statement.

Regardless of who turns out to be right, the fact that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is still defending its 2014 budget with three days to go in the fiscal year is testament to the folly of balancing the budget with unreliable one-time revenues. A better solution is for the state to raise the revenue it needs for basic services through a fair, predictable tax system.


Nursing homes in the spotlight
It’s been an eventful few weeks in the decades-long policy debate between the powerful nursing home industry and advocates for home- and community-based services. Reports by the Legislative Auditor and AARP have been unflattering to Louisiana nursing homes, citing their notoriously poor quality of care, low staffing ratios and spiraling costs. The Advocate’s Marsha Shuler notes that this is happening as two significant policy decisions loom:

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is moving toward private management of state programs that provide care for the elderly and disabled. Where nursing homes fit in the equation isn’t clear.The general objectives are improving care through better coordination while serving more people at home with the dollars available. Another goal goes to the heart of an issue that the state continues to wrestle with: an overreliance on institutions while demand for community-based services skyrocket.The administration initiative comes as the state’s nursing home industry seeks constitutional protection from the budget ax. A proposed constitutional amendment aimed at providing funding stability goes to voters in November. As part of that arrangement, nursing homes would put up extra funds via bed taxes, which would be used as state match to attract twice that in federal funds. It would enhance dollars going to nursing homes.


East Carroll Parish among America’s “hardest” places to live
Any with a few minutes to spare on this Friday could do worse than spending them with the fascinating interactive map produced by The New York Times’ Upshot blog. It ranks every county (and parish) in America by how hard it is to live there, based on factors such as unemployment rate, median income, educational attainment and obesity. The results won’t be entirely surprising: The highest-ranked counties are in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and northern California, while the bottom of the scale is dominated by rural Appalachia and the Deep South.

The 10 lowest counties in the country, by this ranking, include a cluster of six in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky (Breathitt, Clay, Jackson, Lee, Leslie and Magoffin), along with four others in various parts of the rural South: Humphreys County, Miss.; East Carroll Parish, La.; Jefferson County, Ga.; and Lee County, Ark.

It also includes this nugget:

If you exclude educational attainment, or lack of it, in measuring disadvantage, five counties in Mississippi and one in Louisiana rank lower than anywhere in Kentucky. This suggests that while more people in the lower Mississippi River basin have a college degree than do their counterparts in Appalachian Kentucky, that education hasn’t improved other aspects of their well-being.


Dardenne: Higher education is Louisiana’s biggest challenge
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne told a university audience in Alexandria Thursday that higher education is the biggest problem Louisiana faces, citing deep cuts to colleges and universities that have forced faculty layoffs and prompted steep tuition hikes. Said Dardenne, who is running for governor in 2015:

“Higher education, kind of righting the ship, is going to be the biggest challenge we have. We’ve lost professors, we’ve lost confidence in a lot of respects in where we’re going with higher education. And that’s going to be the future, given all the promise we have from an industrial standpoint,” and making sure citizens are trained properly to fill those jobs, he said.


Number of the Day

3,130 – Ranking of East Carroll Parish, of 3,135 counties and parishes in the United States, on a list that weighs quality of life through several factors that include income, life expectancy, educational attainment and unemployment. (Source: The New York Times)