Governor agrees to apply for Pre-K funding
A protracted back-and-forth between the governor’s office and the state Department of Education ended with Gov. Bobby Jindal signing off on an application for $15 million in federal financing to help educate nearly 800 at-risk 4-year-olds for the next four years. The governor’s office withheld its support until today’s deadline over concerns that the grant was tied to the Common Core state standards — despite numerous assurances from State Education Superintendent John White and federal officials that no such ties existed. The new funding is badly needed as state officials implement a 2012 law, Act 3, that calls for a statewide integrated network of early-childhood care and education with strong, uniform standards. Some 5,000 low-income four-year-olds need state support to to attend quality early childhood centers, and advocates fearthis number could increase if Act 3 is implemented without additional funding.
More on the surplus that might be a deficit
State Treasurer John Kennedy abruptly canceled a series of conference calls with bond-rating agencies planned for Monday as questions continued to swirl around the accounting methods used by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration that produced a $179 million budget “surplus” for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Had the old calculations been used, Kennedy says, the state would have finished last year with a $141 million deficit. As The Advocate reports,
“The rating agencies obviously are watching the news in Louisiana and I anticipate them asking about it,” Kennedy said. “I don’t want to represent to the rating agencies we have a surplus if we don’t. Our credibility is very important. … I don’t want to have to defend something that may be indefensible.” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said it was a mutual decision to wait until after the Legislature’s top money committee certifies the amount “so we can all be on the same page.” She said she is confident that the administration is on sound financial footing.
Meanwhile, Stephanie Grace points out that the latest dispute has a ring of depressing familiarity.
And the fact that state leaders can’t agree on the answer says just as much about the atmosphere around the Capitol these days as it does about the state’s financial health, or lack thereof. Distrust seems to permeate every debate, particularly between the Jindal administration and, well, pretty much anyone else. Against that backdrop, the current disagreement amounts to business as usual.
Let’s get facts straight on Amendment 1
As the Louisiana Nursing Home Association continues to push for a constitutional amendment that would protect its funding at the exclusion of other Medicaid providers, LBP is working with a number of advocacy groups in trying to set the record straight. This morning the Monroe News-Star published our latest letter to the editor:
The amendments would make it practically impossible to cut rates for nursing homes and hospitals in the event of a shortfall. Legislators would have to approve any cuts for them by a two-thirds vote. Passing the state budget only requires a majority vote. But other providers would receive no protection whatsoever. In fact, they would be more at risk for cuts than they are today. Doctors, hospice and in-home and community-based care for seniors and people with disabilities, not to mention state colleges and other critical services will be that much more vulnerable to devastating cuts. That’s not what most Louisianans would describe as “fairness.”
Family planning programs save taxpayers billions each year
Publicly funded family planning programs aren’t just about contraception. They also can save taxpayers billions of dollars each year. As The Washington Post reports:
A new Guttmacher report out Tuesday morning finds that the public investment in family planning actually saved taxpayers $13.6 billion in 2010 from the costs of those unintended pregnancies, as well as from other services the programs provide, like testing for sexually transmitted infections and cervical cancer… More than 90 percent of these publicly funded providers offer screening for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Catching these diseases early can pay off down the road through immediate treatment and long-term changes in a patient’s behavior.
Number of the Day
31 – The percentage of Louisiana four-year-olds enrolled in preschool (Source: The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University)