Medicaid expansion gains momentum
The business-led Blueprint Louisiana is calling for the next governor to expand Medicaid, raise gasoline taxes to fund highway and infrastructure projects, and place limitations on the TOPS scholarship program. The group’s endorsement of Medicaid expansion comes on the heels of similar calls to expand health coverage from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) and Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL). Mark Ballard of The Advocate reports:
Blueprint applauded the state’s efforts to hire private insurance companies to handle work once done by government in Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays for health care for the poor — about 1.4 million people, or a quarter of the state’s population. The group also said the move toward private management of LSU charity hospitals was a breakthrough in providing greater access to quality health care. But Blueprint also wants the next governor and Legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility requirements to pick up another 300,000 Louisiana working residents who make too much money to qualify but too little to buy their own insurance on the private market. “We have to be realistic and look at what’s best for the state,” Rozeman said, adding that the state general fund could see a savings of up to $165 million across the first five years.
Revenue came in short last year
State general fund revenues fell $76 million short of what was expected last year, according to a new report from the Legislative Fiscal Office. While personal income tax collections came in $23 million higher than expected, sales taxes came in $25 million short of the forecast and corporate income taxes were $67 million less than expected. The drop in corporate tax collections is due to taxpayers cashing in more tax credits and rebates than expected.
Revenues grew a disappointing 1.6 percent in 2015 compared to 2014. Even as personal income tax collections grew and the sales tax started to grow after three years of stagnation, the state treasury saw drops in corporate tax income and mineral revenues. The report is further evidence that policymakers need to look at raising more recurring revenue. It is clear that years of tax cuts and spending on subsidy programs has eroded the state’s tax base and made it difficult to make investments in higher education, healthcare and infrastructure.
LSU president focused on governor’s race
The state’s flagship university – along with all public colleges and universities in Louisiana – have a lot riding on the outcome of the governor’s race, LSU President F. King Alexander told the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday. The Greater Baton Rouge Business Report writes:
“There is a great concern that higher education has been defunded to a point where we can’t go there anymore,” Alexander said. “A number of them (the candidates) said it’s their No. 1 priority, to get stable funding back into higher education. A couple of them said it’s one of their top priorities, top two or three. I think what the budget battle showed last year is that the bleeding has to stop.” Higher education has become a political hot topic in Louisiana in recent years, given that its state funding has been slashed to the bone while the Jindal administration and state lawmakers have grappled with the state’s annual budgetary dilemmas. Alexander went on a public blitz before this past legislative session, including a stop at the Press Club in March, to sound the alarm on higher education’s dire straits.
Gubernatorial healthcare forum tonight
The Campaign for Healthcare for Everyone–Louisiana is hosting a gubernatorial candidate forum on healthcare issues tonight at Dillard University in New Orleans. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Rep. John Bel Edwards are confirmed to attend. The event begins at 6:00 p.m. in the Professional Services Building’s Georges Auditorium at 2601 Gentilly Blvd.
Number of the Day
$76 million – Shortfall between actual general fund revenues last year and the state’s revenue forecast (Source: Legislative Fiscal Office)