Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

LBP reviews the 2015 Legislature; The Mouse walks away; An “infrastructure bank” to pay for road projects?; and Lives and dollars could be saved with climate change initiatives


LBP reviews the 2015 Legislature
Louisiana’s legislators took modest steps to address the state’s structural deficit this session, but missed several opportunities to fix the bigger problems–the widespread poverty, poor health access and low education attainment that keeps too many hard-working Louisianans from reaching their full potential. The Louisiana Budget Project’s review of the 2015 legislative session, “Modest Progress, Missed Opportunities,” looks at the highlights and lowlights of the two-month session, and explains how the $1.6 billion budget shortfall was solved.


For the first time since Louisiana’s budget shortfalls emerged in 2009, the Legislature took a balanced approach that included new revenues along with prudent cuts and other savings. A series of revenue measures generated around $741 million that will be used to keep critical state services from being cut. That’s a welcome change from years of a cuts-only approach that led to the deepest higher education cuts in the nation. “It took years for Louisiana policymakers to dig themselves into such a deep budget hole, so it was unrealistic to expect it to get fixed in a single session,” said LBP Director Jan Moller. “But the 2015 session was a step in the right direction, as our elected officials realized that new revenues have to be part of the mix if we want to avoid deep cuts that hurt our most vulnerable citizens.”


Click here to read the full report.


The Mouse walks away

One of the nation’s largest film and TV companies won’t steer any new projects to Louisiana as long as the state’s $180 million annual subsidy cap is in effect. At least that’s the word from Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who said Disney-ABC Television Group has put all Louisiana film and television productions on hold thanks to a new law signed last week by Gov. Bobby Jindal. ABC has not confirmed the hold, but  Dardenne says he learned of the moratorium through word of mouth and promises to spend more money on movie productions if he’s elected.  Nola.com’s Kevin Litten reports:


Dardenne made the reference to Disney-ABC in a statement he released through his gubernatorial campaign vowing to save the Louisiana film industry. In the release, Dardenne makes the case that the $180 million cap raises too many questions about whether producers of TV and films in the state will be able to collect their credits that are now worth up to $30 million per production. A spokeswoman for Dardenne said the lieutenant governor learned of the moratorium through Patrick Mulhearn of Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge, a prominent critic of the tax credit bill and industry advocate. Mulhearn said he was told of the decision during a business trip to Los Angeles last week.


An “infrastructure bank” to pay for road projects?

Local governments in Louisiana could soon have another tool at their disposal as they try to find money for road and bridge repairs or new infrastructure projects. As Kevin Litten reports on Nola.com, legislation that awaits Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature would create an “infrastructure bank” that could provide low-cost financing for public-private partnerships such as toll roads.


The infrastructure bank, which would contain the revenues from various state investments, could be used as a way to lower the cost of such a project because it would offer financing with very favorable terms. The details haven’t been worked out about how much money the bank would contain, but Kennedy said there will be a strict focus on choosing projects on their merits — not for political favor. “It can work, and if this is (signed by Jindal), I’ve been asked by the proponents to put some of the states’ money from trust funds” in it, Kennedy said “I’m willing to do that. But … I’ve got to be convinced that whatever is set up is an apolitical, carefully managed program that’s really going to build infrastructure and give the state a return on it.”


The idea would also have to be approved by voters through a constitutional amendment.


Lives and dollars could be saved with climate change initiatives

A new report by the Environmental Protection Agency studied the economic impacts and social benefits of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and found that Americans would benefit from climate change measures.  Joby Warrick of The Washington Post reports:


The report, a five-year, peer-reviewed analysis that assesses the benefits of alternative strategies for dealing with climate change, concludes that every region of the country could be spared severe economic disruptions that would result if greenhouse gas concentrations continue to soar. “The results are quite startling and very clear,” said Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy, whose agency was the chief sponsor of the report. “Left unchecked, climate change affects our health, infrastructure and the outdoors we love. But more importantly the report shows that global action on climate change will save lives.” The report, “Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action,” seeks to measure the potential gains for Americans under an international accord to keeps global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over historical averages. The study incorporates research from earlier peer-reviewed studies as well as modeling by scientists from the Energy Department’s Laboratory complex and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other centers.


Number of The Day:


39 – Percentage of the $1.6 billion budget shortfall that was “solved” by revenue measures (Source: LBP research)