Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

Budget gap smaller than advertised; Louisiana students missing out on millions; “The Vanishing Male Worker”; and Looking for a new car?

Budget gap smaller than advertised

Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn’t have to unveil his executive budget until Feb. 27, but administration officials are hard at work trying to figure out ways to close the ever-present gap between revenues and expenses without wreaking havoc on programs that people care about. For starters, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols tells the AP’s Melinda Deslatte, the $1.4 billion gap is actually a little smaller once you account for inflation (an expense that state agencies typically have to swallow) and $300 million in projected savings unearthed by the state’s outside consultants. Even so, that leaves a large gap that will have to be made up with cuts to state services or new revenues. The alternative is to find new sources of “one-time” patchwork financing.


But Nichols said rather than give agencies target figures to cut their spending plans, she wants to talk about state priorities and ways to end duplications across departments. She said the approach is to “revisit the entire laundry list of everything that we fund in state government at a very granular level, to make sure that we’ve identified all the redundancies and inefficiencies, and then make tough decisions of what items may not rise to the level of the priorities.”


Those “priorities” might not necessarily include higher education. After sparing colleges and universities from cuts in the current-year budget cycle, Nichols would not make the same commitment for next year.


Louisiana students missing out on millions

Only 44 percent of Louisiana high school seniors fill out applications for federal student aid – 12 points below the national average and a clear indication that students and their families are missing out on tens of millions of dollars in potential grants and loans to pay for higher education. Elizabeth Crisp of The Advocate reports:


According to the Cowen Institute at Tulane University, more than 90 percent of students who come from families with annual average household incomes of less than $40,000 a year would receive some form of aid if they submitted FAFSAs. Louisiana ranks among the states with the lowest household incomes at about $44,800, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

If just 4,360 more students applied each year — enough to get Louisiana up to the national FAFSA rate among states — then the Department of Education estimates that an additional $53.9 million would be available in federal grant and work-study aid for Louisiana college students. That’s money that doesn’t have to be paid back.


“The Vanishing Male Worker”

The share of men age 25-54 who are not working has tripled in the last 50 years. According to a poll conducted by the New York Times, CBS and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 16 percent of prime-age men don’t work. There are many reasons. Some younger adults are staying in school longer, some older adults are retiring earlier or started receiving disability benefits when they lost their jobs and couldn’t find new work. But the biggest change is the availability of good-paying, blue-collar jobs for men without college degrees.


Many men, in particular, have decided that low-wage work will not improve their lives, in part because deep changes in American society have made it easier for them to live without working. These changes include the availability of federal disability benefits; the decline of marriage, which means fewer men provide for children; and the rise of the Internet, which has reduced the isolation of unemployment.


At the same time, it has become harder for men to find higher-paying jobs. Foreign competition and technological advances have eliminated many of the jobs in which high school graduates…once could earn $40 an hour, or more. The poll found that 85 percent of prime-age men without jobs do not have bachelor’s degrees. And 34 percent said they had criminal records, making it hard to find any work.


Most non-working men say they want to work and are looking for jobs. But there are many obstacles. In addition to the decline in blue-collar work, the cost of working itself has increased. Higher education and child care costs in particular have far outpaced wages. And of course, it must be noted that the economy is still lagging.


There are about 10 million prime-age men who are not working, but there are only 4.8 million job openings for men and women of all ages, according to the most recent federal data.


The Times’ Upshot blog also has a map showing where men are not working and a graphic showing what those men do instead.


Looking for a new car?


From the Advocate:


The state of Louisiana is putting 709 “underutilized” vehicles up for sale. Jindal administration officials said Thursday they hope to raise between $700,000 and $1.4 million for state coffers.


The vehicles range in age from 2 to 30 years old, with the majority between 6 and 11 years old. They include Dodge Caravans, Ford Fusions, Dodge Ram trucks and Chevy Impalas, among others.

The cars and trucks will be sold through the Louisiana Property Assistance Agency.


16 percent – Share of men age 25-54 who are not working, triple the rate of 50 years ago (Source: New York Times)