Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

Obama's proposed oil tax "dead on arrival"; Common Core lawsuit no more?; Vouchers called into question; and Uninsured rates plummet

Obama’s proposed oil tax “dead on arrival”

President Obama proposed a new $10-per-barrel tax hike on U.S. oil companies Thursday with the intention of using the new revenue to fund an ambitious “21st Century clean” transportation system. High-speed rails, self-driving cars, and infrastructure improvements are all part of the new plan which will be a part of Obama’s 2017 budget proposal he’s presenting to Congress next week. Politico’s Michael Grunwold has the details:


The biggest chunk of Obama’s proposed new spending, about $20 billion a year—roughly equivalent to the EPA and Interior Department budgets combined—would go to “enhanced transportation options,” especially alternatives to driving and flying. […] Obama’s plan will also include about $10 billion a year to encourage local, regional and state governments to plan and build smarter infrastructure projects, including incentives to reduce carbon emissions through land-use planning, public transit, electric-vehicle charging, and other strategies. There would be a Climate Smart Fund to reward states that make greener choices with existing federal dollars, as well as competitive grant programs to promote region-wide planning, more livable cities, and infrastructure projects with greater resilience to climate impacts.


After news of the proposed $10 oil fee broke Thursday, members of the Louisiana delegation quickly responded, calling the President’s proposal into question and giving the administration an idea of how difficult it would be to get such a tax passed through the House. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp has more on the delegation’s response:


House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, swiftly deemed Obama’s proposal as “dead on arrival.” “From day one of President Obama’s Administration, he has waged open warfare on American energy and his radical policies have cost jobs while increasing costs on hard-working families. Washington spending is already too high, and the best way to create more jobs and get our economy back on track is by cutting taxes and controlling spending. The House will kill this absurd proposal, and instead focus on lowering costs and growing our economy,” Scalise said in a statement. […] U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R): “President Obama is clearly using this outrageous tax proposal to continue his war on the oil and gas industry, which – to be frank – is currently on less-than-firm ground. In Louisiana a huge percentage of our jobs are related to the energy industry, ‎which is why I am committed to fighting the President’s unfair and unnecessary tax increase.”


Common Core lawsuit no more?

Former governor Bobby Jindal’s lawsuit against the Obama Administration over the use of Common Core educational standards hung in the balance until Thursday when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced he would not be continuing Jindal’s attempt to appeal the court’s first decision. The Associated Press reports:


Jindal accused President Barack Obama’s administration of manipulating grant money and policy waivers to illegally pressure states to adopt the English and math standards and associated testing. But a judge ruled Jindal offered no evidence to support the claim. Edwards’ office said a recently signed federal law barring the government from mandating standards, combined with Louisiana’s work to rewrite its standards, makes the lawsuit “educationally and financially unnecessary.”


But Attorney General Jeff Landry is not on the same page. According to Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue, Landry released a statement shortly after the governor’s decision claiming the AG’s office would make the final call in deciding whethor or not to continue the appeal:


Landry still has concerns the federal government overreached with Common Core. He said he also wants to review the new federal education laws to see how they might relate to the lawsuit. “I want to be sure that the U.S. Department of Education is not holding our local schools hostage. I intend to examine the new law, the lawsuit, and the actions of the Federal government,” said Landry in a press release.


Vouchers called into question

The Advocate picked up on the recent report from the National Bureau of Economic Research that found poor academic results by students in Louisiana’s controversial school voucher program. The report, measured the academic achievement of voucher students in private schools against a “control” group of public school students who did not get selected. After a year in private school, the voucher students fared considerably worse on math, reading, science and social studies.  Will Sentell of the Advocate:


Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said Thursday the findings confirm what her group has long suspected, and that voucher students often go without the level of curriculum and teachers common in other schools. “We are seeing a difference in the quality of education provided to those kids,” Meaux said. But state Superintendent of Education John White, a longtime backer of vouchers, said in a paper published last month that the NREB report is limited to just the first school year that vouchers were expanded statewide — 2012-13 — and that students have shown steady gains since then.


Uninsured rates plummet

From 2013 to 2015 the number of uninsured Americans has dropped significantly, according to a new Gallup report. Arkansas and Kentucky, two states that have both expanded Medicaid and set up an exchange under the Affordable Care Act, had uninsured rates in 2015 that are less than half of those recorded in 2013. Gallup’s Dan Witters’ emphasizes the important role the ACA has to play in those improved numbers:


Seven of the 10 states with the largest reductions in uninsured rates have expanded Medicaid and established a state-based marketplace exchange or state-federal partnership, while the remaining three have implemented one or the other. […] Nationwide, the uninsured rate fell from 17.3% in 2013 to 11.7% in 2015. […] The only states that did not have statistically significant reductions in their respective uninsured rates since 2013 are Virginia, Wyoming, Kansas, Delaware and South Dakota. Four of these five states neither established a locally managed and promoted exchange nor expanded Medicaid.


Number of the Day

$830,000 – Amount spent by former Governor Bobby Jindal on Common Core legal challenges as of September 2015.

(Source: Times-Picayune)