Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The conservative case for early childhood programs; Administration says budget savings are on track; Film panel looks at tax withholding; and Treatment, not incarceration

The conservative case for early childhood programs

Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson has contributed a chapter to a forthcoming book, Unleashing Opportunity, that makes a compelling case why conservatives should invest in smart early-childhood interventions such as paid family leave and home visitation programs. While much attention has been paid to the importance of Pre-K programs, Gerson, now a Washington Post columnist, starts with the premise that many children from impoverished backgrounds are already far behind by the time they turn 4.


Interaction and imaginative play with adults, particularly parents, lays the critical foundation for adaptability and learning. At the same time, abuse, neglect or parental depression – known by scientists as toxic stress­ – can damage a child’s brain development. Whether positive or negative, these influences have a magnified impact on a child, one that will set a course for their future. And leveling the playing field for all children begins not only with academic stimulation, but with cultivating their character.


Administration says budget savings are on track

The outside consultants hired by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to find savings in state government are on track to produce more than $80 million worth of belt-tightening in the current fiscal year. Administration appointees delivered the news Monday to the Senate Finance Committee, some of whose members were critical when the state spent $7 million to hire New York-based Alvarez & Marsal to look for budget efficiencies.


Still unclear is whether the state really needed to hire consultants to come up with ideas that agencies had already thought of on their own.


For example, at Monday’s meeting, Department of Corrections officials said they had already been looking to implement the recommendations put forward by the consultants — like putting more inmates into rehabilitation programs, which will allow for more early releases from prison and jail —  before Alvarez & Marsal were brought on board. But they were happy to have the private contractors as a “third party validator” of their original plan.


Film panel looks at tax withholding

An industry-heavy panel examining Louisiana’s film subsidy program heard from an expert Monday who said the unique way the movie industry pays big-name actors and other “above-the-line” talent means the state may be losing out on some income tax receipts. Rather than accept regular paychecks, actors often are paid through production companies that can function as tax shelters.


As Cole Avery explains on Nola.com, Legislators are concerned Louisiana might not be getting all of taxes it’s owed, or that the state is getting it years down the road, because of how the companies work. The loan out companies pay production corporations that then pay the actors, producers, directors, etc. The committee members want to get a better handle on who is paying the state (and how much) by taking what the state is owed on the front end, rather than waiting to be paid.


Treatment, not incarceration

An Advocate article about an officer-involved shooting prompted a Baton Rouge physician to lament the decades-long trend of closing down psychiatric hospitals in favor of more prison beds. Writes Harold Brandt:


There are inadequate opportunities for the proper intervention, care and follow-up of such individuals before they or society get hurt. Society’s zeal to empty the mental institutions of patients over the past two decades was based upon the assumption that the newer, more advanced psychiatric medications would eradicate the need for mental institutions. I contend that we have in fact reverted to the medieval times, when the seriously mentally ill were relegated to prisons.


Number of the day

$256,000,000  – Amount Louisiana spent last year to subsidize film and TV productions. (Source: Nola.com via Legislative Fiscal Office)