Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fathers in Louisiana could use some help; Film subsidy cap was rushed, critic says; Candidates support more tax incentive reform and; BESE makes preschool policy changes

Fathers in Louisiana could use some help

As families across the country prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, a new report finds that the Pelican State isn’t the best place to be if you’re a working dad. As Dominick Cross of The (Lafayette) Advertiser notes, Louisiana ranks 47th overall – ahead of just West Virginia, Arkansas, Nevada and Mississippi – in the report by Wallet Hub:


To identify the best and worst states for working dads, WalletHub analyzed the various factors that affect paternal roles in the 50 states and the District of Columbia by examining four key dimensions, including, economic & social well-being, health, work-life balance and child care. In other categories, Louisiana is ranked No. 1 in lowest child care costs adjusted for median income for families with dad present; No. 49 in lowest men’s life expectancy at birth; and No. 48 in highest average hours worked per day among males.


While increasing male life expectancy is a long-term project, there are things Louisiana policymakers could do right away to improve the lot of low-income dads, starting with increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Louisiana’s state EITC is the lowest in the country at 3.5 percent of the federal credit, and efforts to increase the credit failed on the final day of the just-concluded legislative session. That’s bad news for the 186,000 Louisiana fathers who claim the EITC on their tax returns. On the bright side, the sponsor of the bill that would have doubled the credit, House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III of New Orleans, wrote in his blog this week that he remains committed to increasing the credit and boosting the take-home pay of low-income fathers (and mothers).


Film subsidy cap was rushed, critic says

The last-minute changes made to a bill that seeks to cap the state’s film subsidy program have angered a state legislator to the point where she wants to change the way lawmakers deal with legislation in the final hours before adjournment. Rep. Julie Stokes of Kenner told that legislators did not have enough time to evaluate some of the changes made to House Bill 829 in the final hours of the session, such as a provision that caps state subsidies at $30 million for a single production.


“I personally would like to author legislation next year that says you can’t introduce or post any new conference committee reports on the last day of session,” Stokes said, referring to reports that the legislature uses to pass bills that contain disagreements between the two chambers. “When you post a very large conference committee report in the final day of session, it might have on its face transparency but in fact there’s not enough time.”


Film executives are urging Gov. Bobby Jindal to veto the bill, which caps state payouts at $180 million a year for three years but does not restrict how many film credits can be certified during that time. Up in West Monroe, meanwhile, hirsute waterfowl enthusiast Willie Robertson told The News-Star that taxpayer subsidies is one reason he’s now a multimillionaire reality TV star. But the chief budget architect in the House of Representatives said that money could have been better spent on other things.


“To put it in perspective, we’ve spent $1 billion on film tax credits and cut higher ed by $700 million in the last seven years,” said Rep. Jim Fannin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “I think had we funded higher ed with that money we would have gotten a higher return on our investment.”


Candidates support more tax incentive reform

Three of the four major candidates for governor met for another forum on Wednesday (Sen. David Vitter was stuck in Washington), and all of them said they would seek even more changes to Louisiana’s tax incentive programs than the ones approved this month by the Legislature. As The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports,


The gubernatorial candidates’ statements reflect the sharp change in tax policy in Baton Rouge. During the first seven years of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s term, he and the state Legislature cut taxes for higher-income individuals and passed more tax breaks for businesses. But the Legislature cut a variety of business tax breaks this year by 20, 25 or 28 percent as part of the effort to end a projected $1.6 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. Jindal said he would sign the measures into law.


BESE makes preschool policy changes

Providers of early education services would have more power over a new enrollment system under policy changes adopted Wednesday by the state’s top school board. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved the changes under pressure from child advocates, who said an earlier proposal gave too much power to local school boards. As Jessica Williams of reports, the changes include:


  • Before a lead agency centralizes enrollment, the agency must work with all child care and pre-kindergarten providers to develop enrollment procedures. The groups must then submit the plan to the state.
  • A statewide work group will study whether parish enrollment plans worked in 2015-16 and report back to the state school board.
  • Generally, if a lead agency does not grade a child care provider, the provider receives a grade of 1 in each area where there was no observation. A provider may appeal that score, under the policy revision.

Number of the Day

186,000 – Fathers in Louisiana who received either the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC) or both in 2012 (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)