Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

Oil prices help crater the state budget; Strategies to give low-income families more opportunities for success; Nursing homes lie about staffing levels; and News from the home office

Oil prices help crater the state budget

A 20 percent drop in oil prices – now at their lowest level since 2010 – is the main reason Louisiana’s revenue forecast is expected to be significantly downgraded this morning by the Revenue Estimating Conference. And that, in turn, will require a round of mid-year budget cuts – marking at least the sixth time in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration that state government has been forced to undergo a December downsizing. As The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports:


Midyear corrections have happened before, though perhaps not as frequently as in recent years. But this time, it’s more precarious. In addition to lower than expected oil prices, individual income taxes have not produced the collections legislators expected. Those taxes account for 27 percent of total tax receipts. Also, sales taxes, which account for 29 percent of the total, are flat. But the largest expected drop is in mineral revenues, which account for about $1.3 billion — or about 13 percent of the forecasted $10.3 billion total state tax receipts for fiscal year 2014. Given the lower prices, that number is likely to fall.


Council for a Better Louisiana President Barry Erwin says the state’s ongoing budget problems are the result of a “perfect storm,” and that it’s time to end the patchwork approach of the past few years.


The greatest challenge facing a new governor and Legislature in 2016 will be to shore up the budget once and for all, Erwin said. He thinks it will mean taking a critical look at the many tax credits and exemptions to ensure they are paying off.


Strategies to give low-income families more opportunities for success

Parents at every income and education level are forced to juggle multiple priorities. But the job is tougher for low-income families, for whom the challenges of maintaining a job along with high-quality childcare make it harder to raise a family.A new report by The Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that 52 percent of Louisiana’s low-income families with children under 8 have parents that are unable to find full-time, year-round employment and 85 percent have no parents with at least an Associate’s degree. Additionally, 40 percent of low-income parents in Louisiana are concerned that their children are at risk of developmental delays, and 16 percent report that childcare issues affected their employment. The Annie E. Casey Foundation recommends enhancing several two-generational policies that create better opportunities for children and parents, including expanding state Earned Income Tax Credits and home visit programs. You canclick here to read the complete report.


Nursing homes lie about staffing levels

A federal web site for consumers set up to let citizens compare the quality of care in various nursing homes is not telling the full story. That’s because the data on staffing levels that nursing homes self-report to the Nursing Home Compare website is often much different than the cost data reported to Medicare. That finding comes from a new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, which discovered that 80 percent of nursing homes around the country report higher levels of nursing care to the consumer website than on their cost reports.


Lo and behold, some of the worst violators are in Louisiana, which is already home to the lowest staffing levels anywhere in the United States.


Eight of the 10 states with the largest reported levels of registered nurse discrepancies were southern. Among them: Louisiana and Arkansas, two states where the average self-reported levels were at least twice the amount calculated through the cost reports analysis. Baton Rouge and Memphis stood out among cities with at least 10 nursing homes.


News from the home office

The Daily Dime is taking a brief sabbatical. Next week the staff will be attending the annual conference of the State Priorities Partnership, a network of more than 40 independent state-level policy research organizations of which LBP is a member.  And then comes Thanksgiving. We will be blogging if the mood strikes, but this seems like a good time to take a break from the daily work of producing a news roundup. The Dime will return on Dec. 1.


In the meantime, we are hiring a director of communications and development. If you – or someone you know – is an experienced, organized communicator with skills that includes writing and editing, fund development and overseeing the website of a busy nonprofit, click the above link for a full job description.


Quote of the Day

“Let’s say, for example, that last year I spent more than I earned. By late December, I’m so broke that I cannot make my mortgage payment. Upon realizing this fact, I sneak into my children’s bedroom as they sleep. Only after I empty their piggy banks, pawn off my son’s Xbox and sell my daughter’s cell phone do I have enough to pay my bills. After all that, I have $100 left over. What do you know? I ended the year with a surplus! Aren’t I a brilliant and prudent money manager?” columnist Bob Mann, explaining Gov. Bobby Jindal’s approach to budgeting.


Number of the Day

26 – Percent of nursing homes, nationally, that self-report at least twice the level of nurse staffing to a federal consumer website than they disclose in their Medicare cost reports (Source: Center for Public Integrity)