Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The story behind the solar credit; Say it again: The Affordable Care Act is working; Number of “disconnected youth” on the rise; and About that Mouse...


The story behind the solar credit

Dozens of tax credit programs took a haircut in the recently concluded legislative session, but few were hit as hard as the solar tax credit, which was already scheduled to be phased out. Brian Slodysko with the Associated Press lays out a good history of the controversial program:


Implemented in 2008, the solar tax credit program offered a generous benefit to those who bought solar panel systems: it covered as much as half the cost, paying out up to $12,500. But in 2009, lawmakers also wanted poor people to enjoy the benefits of solar panels, which are expensive to purchase and install. To do so, the Legislature opened the tax credit program to solar panel leasing companies. Lessors got the valuable tax credit, those who rented solar panels benefited from lower electricity bills. That’s when the costs of the program started to add up, said former Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, who sponsored the loophole which he later tried to repeal without success…Before long, Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs were investing in the lucrative business. Meanwhile, complaints of predatory leasing practices arose. Ponti said some consumers saw limited savings and shoddy work, while facing egregious contract opt-out provisions. This fiscal year, solar panel lessors alone have applied for credits worth $45 million, according to state figures…Many lawmakers have resisted efforts to cut leasing companies out of the tax break because they felt it was unfair to poor people. Others were philosophically opposed to the state rewarding installers and sellers, while excluding leasing companies from the program.


Under House Bill 779, which was signed last week by Gov. Bobby Jindal, solar credits will be capped at $20 million next year, which is estimated to save the state $19 million. The program expires in 2017.


Say it again: The Affordable Care Act is working

Reports of Obamacare’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. But the proof is in the pudding. The new National Health Interview Survey from the Centers for Disease Control–long considered the gold standard by researchers–confirms what most already knew about the Affordable Care Act: it is working, especially for low-income Americans who had been chronically uninsured before. The New York Times has details:


The share of poor Americans who were uninsured declined substantially in 2014, according to the first full year of federal data since the Affordable Care Act extended coverage to millions of Americans last year…The survey also registered a sharp decline in the share of black Americans who were uninsured, which fell by nearly a third to 13.5 percent from 18.9 percent in 2013. That was the largest annual change for any racial or ethnic group since the survey began in 1997…The share of uninsured among the poor and lower middle class, called “near poor” by the federal government, declined by 7 percentage points and 7.6 percentage points respectively, compared with a 2.5 percentage point decline for Americans who were not poor.


The new report comes as the Supreme Court is on the verge of deciding whether taxpayers in states that did not set up their own online marketplaces are eligible for tax credits. At stake is the promise of affordable insurance for millions of Americans, including 138,000 people in Louisiana, according to Families USA. The argument that those taxpayers should be excluded is based on a parsing of one phrase in the law, that if read as opponents suggest would render its entire framework nonsensical. To say the least, the totality of the law and Congressional record clearly say otherwise.


Number of “disconnected youth” on the rise

In the wake of the Great Recession, a growing number of 17 to 24 year-olds are neither working nor enrolled in school or a training program. Nearly 10.5 percent of 21 to 24 year-olds in America are “disconnected,” up from 8.4 percent in 2007, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute. Among 17 to 20 year-olds, the rate is even  higher: 16.3 percent, up from 13.7 percent before the recession. Having so many young people “idled” is a major drain on the economy, and there is evidence that starting off your adult life unemployed or underemployed can have lasting impacts on work and lifetime earnings. Reconnecting these youth to school or work needs to be a national priority.


About that Mouse…

The Daily Dime strives to provide accurate accounts of news about tax and budget-related issues in Louisiana and beyond. But sometimes the news gets ahead of the facts, such as yesterday’s  report that Disney was placing a moratorium on new film and TV projects in Louisiana because of the new $180 million annual cap on payouts. The report was attributed to Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who in turn got it from a Baton Rouge film executive. It turns out nobody bothered to confirm the news with ABC-Disney. That is, until Sen. David Vitter – Dardenne’s rival in the governor’s race – called the company and was told that the Mouse is, in fact, still willing to make government-subsidized films in Louisiana. And as’s Kevin Litten reports, both men have vowed to revisit the film credit issue if elected governor.


“Let me assure you that Louisiana will continue to have a significant film tax credit program and a welcoming environment,” Vitter said in the statement, which he said was directed at Disney-ABC. “I plan on revisiting this issue as governor so that we have a sustainable (versus completely unlimited) program, but a very significant one that produces the maximum activity possible.” Dardenne was an architect of the original tax credit legislation, and said Monday that he does not oppose a cap on the amount of money the state pays for television and film producers who do business in the state. Vitter’s decision to wade into the debate — and refute a statement Dardenne made — marks the first time gubernatorial candidates have squared off on the issue since the start of the legislative session in April.


Number of the Day
33  – Percentage of Louisianans under 25 with a high school degree who were enrolled in college in 2014, down from nearly 40 percent in 2007 (Source: Economic Policy Institute)