Budget still short, cuts imminent

Budget still short, cuts imminent

The House approved a $284 million supplemental budget bill Monday after much debate pitting safety net hospitals against the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS).

Budget still short, cuts imminent

The House approved a $284 million supplemental budget bill Monday after much debate pitting safety net hospitals against the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS). All indicators suggest the House is unlikely to raise additional revenue this session, meaning cuts are likely to a host of services including higher education and public safety. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue has details on the spending plan.

Under the new House budget plan, medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport would receive around $35 million more, but still not get enough funding to meet all of their financial needs. Public schools would get $27 million more, but still be short $16 million of their full funding request. Private and parochial schools would receive about $11 million more, but have to absorb $2 million in cuts. And Louisiana’s voucher program would get about $4 million more, but still be down about $2 million short of what advocates have requested. Local sheriffs, juvenile offender programs, drug courts and private prisons would all receive a little additional revenue under the House budget plan. Yet that wouldn’t be enough to avoid a significant cutback in the services in those areas either…the House also wasn’t able to restore any funding to some government programs at all. The Department of Child and Family Services would still have to absorb an $8.8 million cut that affects child abuse enforcement, the food stamp program and emergency shelters, according to budget documents from the governor’s office. No extra money for services for people with disabilities — programs that have long waiting lists — would be available either. Museums and state  parks around Louisiana would have to cutback or shuttered altogether.

Senate President John Alario would like to see revenue get to $450 million, but without willingness in the House any revenue raised in the Senate would face a tough road gaining House approval.  

 

The costliest tax break

The Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) – which allows manufacturers to avoid local property taxes for 10 years on new investment – is costing local governments $1.6 billion a year in lost revenue. That’s from a new study by Together Louisiana, which found that the Pelican State is far more generous than its neighbors. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard:

Lost local revenue over the past 10 years cut into law enforcement and corrections by $316.6 million, parish governments by $281 million, libraries by $75 million, roads by $60.5 million, and levees by another $27.8 million. The $587 million in tax revenue lost to local school districts is more than three times the $185 million needed to pay for universal pre-kindergarten statewide, according to the report. Lots of states have similar industrial tax exemptions, but The Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank, calls Louisiana’s incentives “unusually generous.”

A new way in Louisiana corrections

The Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, charged with developing data-driven recommendations to reduce Louisiana’s prison population through changes in sentencing and recidivism reduction, held its first meeting on June 17  at the Capitol. The taskforce includes judges, legislators, a sheriff, a prosecutor and a religious leader, among others. Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to make prison reform a major push during the 2017 legislative session. Maya Lau, writing for The Advocate, shares Gov. Edwards sentiments on incarceration in the state.

Edwards asserted that a “lock ’em up” culture has failed to bring down crime even as the state’s incarceration rate has shot up 35 percent over the past 20 years — currently at 816 per 100,000 people, double the national average. This costs the state $600 million to $700 million a year. This push comes at a time when many states, including some in the South, have embraced a movement toward deincarceration and sentencing reform that’s gained support across the political spectrum.“If we had the highest incarceration rates and the lowest crime rates and the lowest recidivism rates, we could probably argue that it was worthwhile. There is no argument to make for what we’re doing in Louisiana today,” Edwards said, noting that Louisiana has some of the highest rates of violent crime.

Defining characteristics of the poor

Developing effective policy to reach those living in poverty first requires understanding their profiles. In a paper released by the Brookings Institution, characteristics of the 14.8 percent of the U.S. population living in poverty are delineated including the working age poor–those between 18 to 64. While only 13 percent of working-age adults in poverty were working full time in 2014, 27 percent worked part time, half of which did so involuntarily.

About 40 percent of those working part-time during the year are involuntarily part-time – meaning that they would like to work full time but cannot due to an economic reason such as inability to find a full-time job, employer reduction of hours, or slack work. Just under half of part-time workers were students, caregivers, or disabled. Only about 1 in 6 of these part-time workers worked fewer than 35 hours a week or less than 50 weeks a year for some other reason.

Moreover, of those who were not in the labor force, 18 percent are disabled and 26 percent are caretakers.

 

Number of the day

75 percent – Percentage of funding set to be cut from the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) budget, a non-profit that assigns volunteers to assist foster care children, if no new revenue is raised. (Source: The Advocate)