Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

More money for state police; Task Force floats ideas for more transportation funding; Louisiana is 2nd largest recipient of federal dollars; Just how big is a $300 million cut to higher education?


More money for state police

State troopers could get a 30 percent pay raise this week, thanks to a new tax on uninsured drivers passed in the waning hours of last year’s legislative session. As The Advocate reports:


The hike would bring State Police in line with what other law enforcement officers are paid and was approved before the price of oil dropped by $40 a barrel, requiring a midyear correction in this year’s budget and massive cuts to be proposed for next year’s — including a cut of about $300 million for higher education.


To finance the raises, the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget will have to vote Friday to shift about $15 million from a new fund set up to collect increased reinstatement fees on uninsured drivers. The higher fees, originally estimated to bring in $50 million a year, were passed in the closing hours of last legislative session without a formal hearing.  The move is part of a larger trend in state budgeting in recent years that has seen costs go up for college students, state workers and drivers through a series of new fees and tuition hikes even as as Gov. Bobby Jindal claims to hold the line on new revenues.


Task Force floats ideas for more transportation funding

A legislative task force that has been considering ideas in recent months to help Louisiana tackle its $12 billion infrastructure backlog has put together a laundry list of ideas, without making specific recommendations, according to the Associated Press.


(R)ather than offer specific recommendations, the Transportation Funding Task Force is forwarding all the ideas it heard, without prioritizing proposals it submits to lawmakers. Instead, the panel will let them sift through concepts to see which generate the most interest. Its report was due to lawmakers this week…


In the draft report approved Monday, ideas include swapping the state’s 16 cent-per-gallon gas tax for an 8 percent sales tax on a broader array of fuel sales and requiring that 60 percent of the state’s construction budget be spent on transportation…Partnering with the private sector on infrastructure projects was suggested, which could involve a private company building a road project in exchange for charging user fees or tolls.


Louisiana is 2nd largest recipient of federal dollars

Only Mississippi is more reliant on dollars from Uncle Sam than Louisiana. That’s according to a new analysis from the Tax Foundation that shows 44 percent of Louisiana’s revenue comes from the federal government, reports the Washington Post. The average state received a bit less than 32 percent of its revenue from Washington. There is a strong correlation between a state’s poverty rate and the share of its budget that comes from the feds, which isn’t surprising considering that the largest source of federal dollars is in the form of state aid for Medicaid–the health insurance program for children from low-income families, pregnant women and people with disabilities. Federal dollars also help support education, infrastructure projects and other social services. Louisiana’s Congressional delegation should keep these facts in mind as they work to craft the federal budget.


Just how big is a $300 million cut to higher education?

With reports that higher education could be on the chopping block for up to $300 million in cuts next year, Nola.com’s Julia O’Donoghue put together some hypothetical examples to give readers a sense of how devastating those cuts would be. Consider that $300 million is the entire operating budget of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, and is $50 million more than the state spent on TOPS last year.


“I don’t see how we can sustain that to be honest with you,” said State Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, who chairs the Louisiana House Education Committee that oversees colleges and universities. “They are unsustainable. You just can’t do them.”


Number of the Day


44  – Percentage of Louisiana’s budget that comes from the federal government (Source: Washington Post)