Edwards: Budget crisis is first priority
Gov. John Bel Edwards held a lengthy press conference Thursday during which he answered questions about everything from the budget shortfall to social issues. More than 1,500 bills have been filed for the current regular session, but the administration’s focus remains on fixing the state’s historic fiscal crisis. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports that Edwards acknowledged that some legislators are resisting his call for a second special session – but insists it will be necessary:
“Priority No. 1 has to be about stabilizing the state of Louisiana and dealing with the largest budget deficit in our history,” Edwards said. “If we are not successful, very little else that I’ve talked about in the campaign and since, we’re going to be able to do.” … The budget proposal before the Legislature right now includes a $50 million reduction in spending for public K-12 schools, a 66 percent cut in the popular tuition-paying Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, and cuts for charity hospitals in Houma, Bogalusa, Lake Charles and Alexandria. That could change as legislators work through the budget process. As Republicans are looking over the state budget, they’re also hoping the Revenue Estimating Conference will officially tell the state it has more money to spend. Edwards said the prudent thing is to prepare for another special session in June, which would allow lawmakers to raise revenues, if necessary.
Bill banning LGBT employment discrimination heads to Senate floor
A bill that would ban Louisiana’s public and private employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender expression sparked a heated discussion during a meeting of a senate labor committee on Thursday. Senate bill 436 by New Orleans Sen. Troy Carter now heads to the full Senate floor for debate, where it will most likely face even stronger opposition. According to Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue, the measure drew ire from some in the business community, which ultimately threatened the bill’s advancement out of committee:
In most parts of Louisiana, it is legal to fire or demote a person for being gay, transgender or in a same-sex relationship. Only New Orleans and Shreveport have local ordinances prohibiting those actions. Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, drew on his own experiences as a black man when lobbying his fellow committee members to support the legislation. Carter said he still experiences discrimination but felt fortunate he had some legal protections to fight back against it. He thought the LGBT community should have the same legal tools available to them. … The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the National Federation of Independent Business oppose the bill. … The measure reported out of committee on a 4-3 vote — on the second try. State Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, switched her vote in support of the measure moments after it first failed. “I thought initially that it would get out without my vote,” she said after the meeting. Barrow said she didn’t think LGBT people should be subjected to discrimination at work, but was also concerned about the burden the bill might place on businesses. She said she switched her vote because she thought the matter deserved a hearing on the floor of the Senate.
Need-based aid for college students dwindles
The Washington, D.C.-based New America Foundation sheds light on the growing disparity between need-based aid and merit-based aid for college students at public land grant universities. During the 2014-2015 school year, $1 out of every $3 spent on financial aid by public research universities went to students with no demonstrated financial need. Some colleges even reported spending 100 percent of their institutional aid based solely on merit – dedicating no school funding to need-based aid for students who can’t afford higher education on their own. Author Stephen Burd’s analysis shows how disinvestment from public universities by state legislatures fuels this harmful trend:
The widespread use of merit aid is harming low-income students, I believe. Low-income students at high merit aid schools pay an average net price—the price after all grants and scholarships are taken into account—of $11,785 annually. In contrast, those attending schools that spend the smallest shares of their aid on non-needy students are left on the hook for only $8,998, or 23 percent less. … In addition, it appears that the use of merit aid at public universities is spreading rapidly. Stung by sharp state budget cuts at the same time they are seeking greater prestige, these universities are increasingly pitted against one another, fiercely competing for the students they most desire: the “best and brightest,” and those wealthy enough to pay full freight. And they are using a large share of their institutional aid dollars—money that could instead be going to students who truly need it—to entice these generally well-off students to their schools. … As Donald Hossler, one of the leading experts on enrollment management, has said, “The level of competition is creating a prisoner’s dilemma. Some schools are doing this not because they want to but because their peers are. They feel they can’t afford not to do it.”
Where would we be without the ACA?
New research from the Urban Institute demonstrate the benefits the benefits of the Affordable Care Act The authors used U.S. Census data to estimate how many American adults would be uninsured today without the landmark federal health care law.
Rather, if we want to understand the effect of the ACA on coverage, we must assess what would have happened had there been no ACA and compare the new levels of coverage with that counterfactual. We develop our estimate of what would have happened in the absence of the ACA by modeling coverage from 2000 to 2012 and accounting for preexisting trends and determinants of insurance coverage. … The largest relative decreases in uninsured adults caused by the ACA accrue to those in the middle-income group. The uninsurance rate in this group fell 51%. The uninsurance rate fell 45% in the low-income group and 34% in the high income group. By age category, the largest relative decreases in the uninsured occur for the 19- to 25-year-olds and the 45- to 64-year-olds: Each fell more than 50%. The 26- to 44-year-olds saw a 37% reduction.
Number of the day
46 percent – Estimated decline in the number of uninsured nonelderly adults in the U.S. since the Affordable Care Act’s enactment. (Source: The Urban Institute)