New outlook on economic development
Louisiana’s economic development strategy of writing big checks to attract business may be changing. The Advocate’s Lanny Keller writes that Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards wants investments that attract business to Louisiana, but also wants to make sure those businesses invest in the state:
The larger reality is that incentives have become a corporate entitlement. Companies ruthlessly extort big benefits from State A and then use them to leverage State B into writing a bigger check. It’s a lesson from “The Godfather” movies: A lawyer with a briefcase can steal much more money than a thug with a gun. Every state and city can duel in a race to the bottom to give away money. And there’s been a legitimate argument that Louisiana’s out-of-date and inefficient tax code has to be “adjusted” by long-term incentives that reduce the money to the Treasury. That money, though, is needed to build better schools and colleges, fund workforce training, fix roads and bridges. Those are the goals in a long-term strategy for growth. Edwards did not suggest Louisiana unilaterally disarm in economic development giveaways. He wants “a plan that is mutually beneficial to the citizens of Louisiana and industry.”…What will be interesting is whether the governor-elect’s policy can be enforced not only in state government, where “this is the way we do things” is Holy Writ but in a corporate culture that is used to “incentives” that are essentially free money to the bottom line.
Jindal’s farewell tour
The Nola.com/Times-Picayune editorial board is not happy with out-going Gov. Bobby Jindal’s record. Deep cuts to higher education and the continued refusal to accept Medicaid expansion have drawn the paper’s criticism, and his farewell tour can’t camouflage the mess his policy decisions have left for the next administration:
Louisiana has cut state funding to higher education more than any other state during Gov. Jindal’s two terms. Since 2008, higher education has been slashed by 42 percent here, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in May. In 2013-14, Louisiana came in last among 16 Southern states for general fund money allocated for each full-time college student. “We always want to cut more,” Gov. Jindal said Monday. “I think it is better to reduce the size of government.” But in the case of higher education, the deep cuts have reduced opportunities for Louisiana young people. Students are having a hard time getting into the classes they need to graduate on time because of a shortage of faculty. Universities can’t afford to fill some jobs and are finding it difficult to recruit for other posts…
Gov. Jindal’s refusal to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid has hurt tens of thousands of residents as well. Gov.-elect Edwards has said he plans to reverse that decision and extend coverage to uninsured low-income residents as soon as possible. Legislators finally seem to be moving in that direction as well. Even so, Gov. Jindal said Monday at the Press Club that his administration would do nothing between now and inauguration day Jan. 11 to start preparing to expand Medicaid…Since the Jindal team will be in charge for less than a month maybe that doesn’t make much of a difference in practical terms. But it is unfortunate that even now, after giving up on his presidential bid, Gov. Jindal won’t put the well being of people above politics.
Suing over SNAP?
The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice is trying to keep Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration from cutting off SNAP benefits (formerly know as food stamps) to more than 62,000 current recipients. Because of Louisiana’s high unemployment rate, the state could continue to provide benefits for unemployed adults without children through a federal waiver. The Jindal administration has refused to do so even though it wouldn’t cost the state a dime. Kevin Litten of Nola.com/The Times-Picayune has more:
The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice says it may seek a temporary restraining order in federal court because the state has failed “to provide adequate notice of new work requirements” and inform beneficiaries of ways they can avoid losing food stamp benefits. The Jindal administration, through the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, notified recipients in October that they would lose benefits if they didn’t find at least 20 hours of work per week by Jan. 1... The state could have allowed the federally funded SNAP program — SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — to continue because the state’s unemployment rate is above the national average. But the Jindal administration has said it’s trying to get people off the dole and encourage them to work — a position that has been criticized by advocates for the poor such as the Louisiana Budget Project as insensitive to people who can’t find work.
Shared sacrifice ahead
It’s no secret that Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards and legislators will be facing a rough road ahead. The incoming administration is inheriting a budget nightmare, with next year’s deficit hovering between $1.2 and $1.6 billion. But the Gov.-elect says he is up to the task and there is reason for optimism. Jacob Batte of the Daily Comet has the story:
Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards said today that the state may go through a temporary rough period before its financial situation straightens out. “We’ll have some shared prosperity, but in the short-term we’ll have some shared sacrifice, as well,” Edwards said during an address at a joint luncheon hosted by the South Central Industrial Association and the Bayou Industrial Group at Cypress Columns in Gray…Edwards said he planned to review Jindal’s tax breaks that are costing more than projected or aren’t bringing in the expected revenue. Those breaks will either be scaled back or cut and the savings will be used toward higher education or health care. “We’ll have to put a lot of options on the table and we’ll look closely at all of them to make sure we move forward,” Edwards said Louisiana “can’t cut our way to prosperity.”
Be a State Policy Fellow
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is looking for bright, driven public policy graduate students who want to make a difference for vulnerable families in their communities. The State Policy Fellows program is a two-year program where fellows work as policy analysts at state-level organizations such as LBP. The program is open to people with recent graduate degrees in public policy, law, social work, economics or a similar field and is an excellent way to gain critical experience. For more information about the fellowship and how to apply for the class of 2016, click here.
Number of the Day
62,000 – Number of unemployed adults who could lose access to basic food assistance next year because of a rule change from the Jindal administration (Source: Nola.com)