Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A call to end child poverty; Jindal to present “options” on budget; The UN-WISE Fund; and Hospital “stabilization” fund delayed


A call to end child poverty
Nearly 15 million American children are living in poverty. An estimated 6.5 million are “extremely poor,” meaning they live in a household that lives below half the federal poverty rate. The problem is nationwide, but it’s worse in Louisiana than in most places, as we have the nation’s third-highest poverty rate and fourth-highest rate of child poverty. But if we increase spending by an amount equal to 2 percent of the federal budget, America could cut that figure by 60 percent. That’s the conclusion of a new report by the Children’s Defense Fund. The great New York Times columnist Charles Blow has the scoop:


It points out many of the corrosive cruelties of childhood poverty: worse health and educational outcomes, impaired cognitive development and the effects of “toxic stress” on brain functions. It also points out the “intergenerational transmission” properties of poverty: “In one study, people who experienced poverty at any point during childhood were more than three times as likely to be poor at age 30 as those who were never poor as children. The longer a child was poor, the greater the risk of adult poverty.”


Two percent of the federal budget is $77 billion, which is a lot of money. The report says this money could be raised by eliminating tax breaks and other loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy. But it also calls for reducing military spending. Impossible? No.


The report holds up Britain, which took some of the same steps as a case study of how such an approach can work because they “managed to reduce child poverty by more than half over 10 years, and reductions persisted during the Great Recession.”


Jindal to present “options” on budget
Gov. Bobby Jindal broke his silence Wednesday on the state budget, telling The AP’s Melinda Deslatte that he will present the Legislature with various options for mitigating the $1.6 billion budget shortfall without raising taxes.


Jindal said he’ll also pair the cut proposals he sends to lawmakers with a list of options to shrink some of the slashing. He said he can’t include money from the ideas in his budget because they’d need legislative approval to work. “We’ll be presenting suggested solutions that the Legislature might want to consider that could help mitigate these impacts, particularly on higher education and health care,” Jindal said.


Translation: The governor’s executive budget, which will be presented to legislators on Feb. 27 and must be balanced, will be a bloodbath of cuts to critical programs. But it will be paired with a menu of potential short-term “fixes” that legislators could use to get through another year. In other words, this governor has no intention of addressing the long-term structural imbalance between state revenues and expenses, and has decided to leave that task to his successor.


The UN-WISE Fund

The Advocate’s editorial page is not terribly impressed by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s WISE fund for higher education, and even less enthusiastic now that there’s talk of scrapping the project due to pressures on the state budget.


A better policy than the WISE fund? Generate some serious dollars for higher education on the front end, instead of parceling out payments like this through mechanisms that generate headlines but precious little new training and education opportunities. An education policy is fundamental to economic development, and WISE was hardly the kind of comprehensive thinking that is needed. In fiscal 2016, the budget lawmakers are about to work on, we figure there might be something called a WISE fund, because the governor and legislators were so invested in the fraud the first time around.But it will be a fraud, and it will underline the problem of unwise legislators and ideologically rigid governors who see fiscal responsibility as refusing to pay the bills, even for something as manifestly needed as workforce development.


Hospital “stabilization” fund delayed
A new constitutional mandate designed to protect Medicaid funding for hospitals will not be part of the solutions to the state’s short-term budget problems, political leaders and hospital executives told The Advocate’s Marsha Shuler. The amendment, approved by voters last November, allows hospitals to assess fees on themselves that would be used to draw down federal matching funds. But the assessment formula must be approved by the Legislature in a two-thirds vote, and the sponsor of the amendment says that won’t be happening this year.


I’m 99 percent sure we are not doing anything,” said House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, who sponsored the constitutional amendment aimed at helping hospitals. The plan was designed to protect Louisiana hospitals from budget cuts.


Number of the Day


6.6 million – Number of American children who could be lifted out of poverty by investing an additional 2 percent of the federal budget in existing anti-poverty programs. (Source: Children’s Defense Fund)