Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

The “lost children of Katrina”; Solar industry teams up with Tea Party; Ideas, but no consensus, on budget crisis; and New spending can sometimes save money


The “lost children of Katrina”

It’s well known that trauma experienced in childhood can have long-lasting negative effects, affecting everything from brain development and increasing the likelihood of obesity, substance abuse and chronic disease. So as the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina beckons, it’s no surprise that many of the children whose families were displaced by the storm are still feeling the effects of that disruption. Katy Reckdahl has a searing look at these “lost children” in the Hechinger Report:


An untold number of kids — probably numbering in the tens of thousands — missed weeks, months, even years of school after Katrina. Only now, a decade later, are advocates and researchers beginning to grasp the lasting effects of this post-storm duress. Increasingly, they believe the same lower-income teens who waded through the city’s floodwaters and spent several rootless years afterward may now be driving a surging need for GED programs and entry-level job training programs in the city. It’s no coincidence, they say, that Louisiana has the nation’s highest rate of young adults not in school or working.


Solar industry teams up with Tea Party

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to save money in the budget by scaling back refundable tax credits continues to draw heavy fire from affected industries. The latest salvo comes from the solar industry, which is getting help from an unlikely source as it seeks to preserve a tax credit that is scheduled to expire in 2017 – but which would be killed even sooner under the governor’s tax plan. Debbie Dooley, one of the early activists in the national Tea Party movement, has become a key defender of the solar energy tax credit. As Mark Ballard reports in The Advocate:


As the chairwoman of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, Dooley has led similar protests against rolling back solar power in Georgia and Florida. And in a couple of weeks, she’s coming to Louisiana to help in what this state’s solar industry promises will be a full-court press to protect a tax credit it says is instrumental to installing about 15,000 systems that transform the sun’s rays into electricity in individual homes and small businesses, creating about 1,200 jobs along the way. All of that will end, the industry claims, if Gov. Bobby Jindal succeeds in ratcheting back the tax credit, which is due to expire in 2017, as a way to raise revenues.


Ideas, but no consensus, on budget crisis

Good Friday was the deadline for pre-filing bills in advance of the upcoming legislative session, and  there is no shortage of ideas for grappling with the $1.6 billion budget deficit. But as Gambit’s Clancy DuBos points out, the only thing legislators seem to agree on these days is that the governor’s budget is mostly dead on arrival.


It is now painfully obvious that the cornerstone of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed solution to the state’s $1.6 billion budget gap is going nowhere fast among state lawmakers. In fact, the governor’s proposal to scale back state refunds to businesses that pay local inventory taxes is pretty much DOA. As expenditure savings go, Jindal’s idea was big, even bold. I give him credit for that, because he otherwise has been among the most risk-averse governors Louisiana has ever had. Now, in his final year, he decided to step on the toes of the business community. The pushback has been enormous.


Meanwhile, Ballard notes that legislators are offering lots of ideas – large and small – for changing the state tax code.


One bill would tighten definitions in the inventory tax credit. Currently, the legalese allows parish assessors to tax inventory based on loose interpretations of existing law. The business paying the tax is getting reimbursed anyway, so they really have little incentive to quibble with their assessor over whether this or that object should be included in the tax, Stokes said. Among the passel of bills filed by state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, is a tweak in tax accounting laws. In simple terms, big-box retailers often are headquartered in states with no income taxes. They charge their stores in Louisiana millions of dollars for that sign out front, which the local stores can deduct on their returns in this state. The benefits of the Louisiana deduction ultimately go up the line to the corporation, which is not paying income taxes in its home state. What that basically means is that Louisiana’s taxpayers send a check each year to corporate giants for no real reason, he said. Adley’s bill would generate up to about $300 million simply by changing the deduction’s wording. “That’s not a tax increase. It’s a collection issue,” he said.


New spending can sometimes save money

The venerable Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution notes that in their frenzy to cut federal spending, members of Congress sometimes forget that spending money on certain programs actually end up saving money in the long run. For example, dollars invested in detecting and preventing Medicare fraud and enforcing the tax laws can help reduce long-term budget deficits.


Claiming that better administration will balance the budget would be wrong. But it would help. And it would stop some people from shirking their legal responsibilities and lighten the burdens of those who shoulder theirs. The failure of Congress to provide enough staff to run programs costing hundreds of billions of dollars a year as efficiently and honestly as possible is about as good a definition of criminal negligence as one can find.


Number of the Day

1,047 –
Number of bills pre-filed in the House (776) and Senate (271) in advance of the upcoming legislative session (Source: Louisiana Legislature)