Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Louisiana uses welfare dollars as a “cash cow” to plug budget holes; Office of Group Benefits adjusts date of pharmacy changes, pays refunds; Accounting board proposes tax exemption reporting standards; and Don’t forget to vote

Louisiana uses welfare dollars as a “cash cow” to plug budget holes

Eighteen years ago, Congress and President Bill Clinton transformed federal welfare programs from an entitlement program into a “block grant” —Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)—where each state gets a lump-sum of money and wide discretion on how to spend it. Instead of targeting money to cash assistance and child-care programs that help single parents hold down a job or complete postsecondary education, many states—including Louisiana—have shifted dollars to fill budget holes, reports Al Jazeera America.


In 2012, fully $226 million of Louisiana’s total $261 million went to items that did not go to directly fighting poverty.The result is that less is going to the neediest families. Case in point? The number of families receiving child care assistance has dropped 60 percent over five years in Louisiana. According to figures provided by the state’s Department of Children and Family Services, total spending on child care aid plummeted from a high of $11.2 million per month in August 2010 to a little more than $3 million per month today. The number of children benefiting from state aid fell by 25,000, more than 62 percent.


Office of Group Benefits adjusts date of pharmacy changes, pays refunds

With the threat of a lawsuit from retired state employees and legislative hearings due later this week, Gov. Bobby Jindal administration is tweaking its plan to overhaul health benefits for state workers and retirees, reports the Associated Press.


Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration announced Monday that it will refund nearly $4.5 million in increased costs that state employees paid under changes to their health insurance program…The start date of insurance program changes in the Office of Group Benefits will be retroactively adjusted from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, the day the Jindal administration issued emergency regulations governing the changes.


Attorney General Buddy Caldwell had previously opined that the administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act by issuing emergency rules that raised out-of-pocket drug costs for an estimated 230,000 state workers, retirees and their family members.


Accounting board proposes tax exemption reporting standards

The board that sets accounting rules for public entities is proposing that state and local governments be required to provide more information about the billions of dollars given out in tax exemptions every year, including how much money is lost through these transactions. The proposed standards by the Governmental Standards Accounting Board are a huge win for taxpayers, and come after years of conspicuous silence on the issue. Good Jobs First, a leader in the effort to provide more transparency of corporate tax incentives, has more on the proposed standards (including a few criticisms).


Don’t forget to vote

Polls in Louisiana are open until 8 p.m. tonight for those who didn’t take advantage of the early voting period. In addition to a hotly contested Senate race and congressional elections, voters will also be considering a whopping 14 amendments to the state constitution, including two that could have serious implications for the state budget.


Amendments 1 and 2 are special deals for nursing homes and hospitals that would lock up fees and funding for these powerful provider groups in the Constitution, putting services for in-home care for people with disabilities as well as higher education at risk. All of the state’s major newspapers and the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) have come out against the amendments. Groups like AARP have raised serious concerns about Amendment 1 in particular, saying it could force seniors who want to age in their own homes into nursing homes instead.


You can find your precinct and view a sample ballot on the Secretary of State’s website.



25,000 – Drop in number of children benefiting from child care assistance in Louisiana over the last five years (Source: Al Jazeera America)