Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday, May 13, 2016

House debates budget bill; ‘Local hire’ under fire; Rick Scott seeks free publicity; Paid family leave

House debates budget bill

The Louisiana House, after a lengthy debate, voted narrowly to restore $72 million to the state health department instead of spending that money on TOPS scholarship. The 49-43 vote partially reverses a move by the House Appropriations Committee to fully fund the college scholarship program at the expense of health-care programs. TOPS was slated for a $183 million cut in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ budget, which the budget committee proposed to restore by cutting $84 million from the Department of Health and Hospitals and by raiding set-aside funds that are financed by user fees. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:


The fee and dedications scheme prompted a lengthy debate because, although it appears to be in current law, the state hasn’t been tapping into that funding source for several years…The House also moved to restore funding for the state Inspector General’s office, which had been eliminated in committee. If that change had gone forward, the move would have effectively killed the office. Legislators said they were concerned about the image it would project if they defunded the body charged with investigating government waste and corruption.


Legislators had hoped the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC), which met early Thursday, would have a more favorable budget forecast for the coming fiscal year. However, the REC reiterated that the state is still expected to face a $600 million shortfall. Edwards has stated that he plans to call a special session in June to fill the budget gap.  


‘Local hire’ under fire

A bill working its way through the Legislature seeks to bar cities like New Orleans from giving preference to city workers when hiring for public works projects. But as New Orleans Sen. Wesley Bishop explains in a letter to Times-Picayune, local hiring ordinances are a critical tool for cities to help displaced adults get back on their feet.


It is clear that when we think about education and crime, we miss something that is very fundamental. There aren’t that many problems that a good job can’t solve. At a time when the City of New Orleans is facing a black jobs crisis —with 52 percent of black men out of work, and subsequently 50 percent of black children living in poverty — the city of New Orleans’ Hire NOLA ordinance could help thousands of workers build careers. But that ordinance is under threat by a proposed anti-local hire bill (Senate Bill 288) proposed by Sen. Conrad Appel that could strip the ability of New Orleans and municipalities across the state to address our unique economic challenges. … As a senator, I have seen the need for local hiring programs with my own eyes. There are 10 schools currently being built in my district. I stop at these construction sites all the time — and to my dismay, I see rows of workers’ cars with out-of-state licenses parked by the site, while men from the community who have been denied work are sitting right across the street.


Rick Scott seeks free publicity

Embattled Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to visit Louisiana this summer to recruit companies that might want to relocate to the Sunshine State. The move follows similar stunts by Scott in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and California, where the former health care mogul has touted Florida’s allegedly superior business climate. Jim Turner from the News Service of Florida tells the rest of the story via The Tampa Bay Business Journal:


…Scott omitted the larger part of the narrative — that Jindal’s efforts left the state facing a $1 billion deficit for the current year that, without any corrections, would grow to $2 billion next year. “While (Scott) supported Bobby Jindal‘s plans that have crippled our state and led to two credit downgrades, Gov. Edwards has worked night and day to stabilize our state from the reckless policies Gov. Scott’s coming to promote,” Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said in the email. “He’d be best served staying in Florida to tend to the business of his own state. Louisianans and Floridians would prefer productive dialogue over more gimmicks from slick-talking politicians.”


Another fact that failed to make it into Scott’s Twitter feed: Florida’s Legislature has refused to fund Scott’s top priority – a $250 million incentive fund that the governor sought in order to lure corporations to the state. As columnist Paula Dockery reports,


Gov. Scott blamed the Legislature for killing Enterprise Florida by not pouring money into its recruitment fund and he warned that thousands of potential jobs would be lost. But where was the action? For a guy who based his entire campaign on creating jobs, who branded himself the “Jobs Governor” and who answers every question regardless of the topic with “jobs,” he really didn’t put up a fight.


Paid family leave

The lack of paid family leave for most low-wage workers contributes to income inequality in the United States according to Ruth Milkman writes in The Washington Post. While most workers have a right to at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, only 18 percent of women with only a high school diploma are provided with paid leave. Those who are the least able to financially cope with forgoing income must often choose between caring for loved ones and getting paid. Only four states currently offer paid family leave. While these programs  benefit low-income workers, further work is needed in promoting their use.


These programs all are designed to help level the playing field, although it turns out that this is not as simple a matter as it first appears. My [Milkman] research on the first decade of California’s paid family leave program (in collaboration with economist Eileen Appelbaum) found that because many low-wage workers remain unaware of the existence of that state’s paid family leave program, it is more often used by those in higher-level, better-paying jobs. On the other hand, the low-wage workers who did know about and use California’s paid family leave program have benefited greatly.


Number of the Day

18 percent –  The percentage of women with only a high school diploma who have access to some type of paid maternity leave. (Source: The Census Bureau via The Washington Post)