Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New laws mean tax hikes for some; Most Louisiana metro areas lose jobs; Subsidizing The Donald and; NOLA airport project will help disadvantaged workers

New laws mean tax hikes for some

The 2015-16 fiscal year starts today, which means the state budget – along with many of the bills passed by the Louisiana legislature this session – officially take effect. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports on the new laws:


Meanwhile, car buyers and sellers will pay $50 more for vehicle and salvage titles, boosting the fee to $68.50. And the price tag for getting an official state driving record is rising from $6 to $16. Those fee hikes are estimated to bring in an extra $82 million a year for the state treasury, to help balance the budget. A 50-cent tax hike is boosting the per-pack tax rate to 86 cents, and a new tax is being levied on electronic cigarettes and vapor products. The tobacco tax hike is estimated to raise more than $106 million a year, dollars that are dedicated to help pay for health care services in the state Medicaid program. The state’s payment on film tax credits is capped at $180 million annually for the next three years, and other business subsidies are scaled back by 20 percent, 25 percent and 28 percent across the board through June 2018. Louisiana’s solar tax credit is becoming less generous, and a 1-cent sales tax exemption on business utilities is temporarily suspended.  Companies affected by the tax changes are threatening lawsuits, particularly in the film industry, which claims the cap will cause heavy damage to Hollywood South.  Louisiana is expected to spend about $560 million less on tax breaks in the budget year because of the changes.


Most Louisiana metro areas lose jobs

Louisiana gained 8,100 jobs over the 12-month period that ended May 31, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. But that figure belies an uneven economic performance that saw large gains in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Hammond areas that masked job losses in six other regions of the Pelican State.  As the Bill Lodge of The Advocate reports, the differences are largely due to volatility in the oil and gas industry:


Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, said a year-long downturn spawned by low oil prices appears to have bottomed out, and prices could soon rise to $65 per barrel. Briggs cautioned, though, ongoing negotiations by the U.S. and Euro members over Iran’s nuclear program possibly could send oil prices into a second downward spiral. “We’re waiting to see what happens with Iran next month,” Briggs said, adding that an agreement on nuclear issues could result in Iran being allowed to sell massive quantities of oil to western nations. “They’ll produce 1 million barrels per day if they turn on the spigots.


Subsidizing The Donald

The war of words between vulgarian Donald Trump and Louisiana officials heated up on Tuesday, as Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne threatened to withdraw the state’s $65,000 subsidy for the Miss USA beauty pageant now that it’s no longer being broadcast on national TV.  But officials in East Baton Rouge Parish will likely still be required to pay the $480,000 they agreed to give to the organization that’s half owned by the former reality TV star. As The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen and Andrea Gallo report:


“It’s still a good event, but it’s not the same event we anticipated when we thought NBC and Univision would be involved,” Dardenne said in an interview. The Lt. Governor’s office oversees both the $50,000 incentive from the state Office of Tourism and $15,000 from the Louisiana Seafood Board. East Baton Rouge Parish is putting up another $280,000 in incentive pay and Visit Baton Rouge is providing $200,000. But it was unclear Tuesday how officials will address those incentives, which they may be contractually obligated to provide. Dardenne said he spoke with “high ranking officials” with the Miss Universe Organization and they were “trying to see if they could come up with a broadcast alternative,” but it did not sound like they had anyone “waiting in the wings.”


NOLA airport project will help disadvantaged workers
The $546.5 million project to replace the main terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner will include a new strategy to recruit, train and hire New Orleans residents who have previously been denied job opportunities, including racial minorities and people with disabilities. As the New Orleans Advocate reports, the winning bid included a $2 million set aside for workforce programs.


This is what I hope is the best part of this project, which is putting working families to work,” said Councilman Jared Brossett, who chairs the Transportation Committee. “We want to leverage those jobs into more than just a shiny new building.”  Ashleigh Gardere, director of the city’s Network for Economic Opportunity, said the city has set up centers to recruit and train workers who can go on to get jobs on the project, with training both for skills specifically related to construction jobs and for more general job skills. The plans were largely cheered by members of Stand With Dignity, a group that advocates for better job opportunities for low-income residents, though many of its members said city officials must continue to hold the overall contractor to its obligations in terms of hiring, wages and the employment of businesses owned by women and minorities.



Number of the Day
5,700: Job losses in oil and gas and related industries in Louisiana over the past year. (Source: The Advocate)