Senate to revive income tax measures
With less than three days left in the second special fiscal session, lawmakers have raised only $284 million of the $600 million needed to close gap in next year’s budget. The House is balking on more revenues, but Senate President John Alario announced Tuesday that the upper chamber is still trying to raise enough revenue to keep state agencies afloat starting July 1. Alario told The Monroe News Star’s Greg Hilburn that the Senate will try to bring previously rejected measures to limit itemized income tax and capital gains deductions back into the negotiations:
Alario is suggesting amending House Bill 50 by Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Scott, on the Senate floor Wednesday. Montoucet’s bill would raise about $15 million by reducing capital gains advantages for those who sell businesses. The amendment would also eliminate taxpayers’ ability to use state income taxes and sales taxes among their list of itemized deductions and raise an additional $88 million. The amendment mirrors House Bill 38 by Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, which the House rejected Sunday night by a 55-46 vote. But Edwards and his advisers have been lobbying lawmakers in both chambers to revive the bill and reconsider. Some staunch opponents to adjusting income taxes before a complete overhaul can be crafted next year said they will at least give the bill a hearing.
House Bill 69, the supplemental budget bill that appropriates all the revenue raised so far, has also stalled, as legislators and the governor debate which programs should get fully funded in the coming year. All eyes are on the Senate Finance Committee, as The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports:
The Senate Finance Committee planned a Tuesday meeting to craft its version of the bill to plug the money into next year’s budget. But after delaying the meeting twice, the committee hearing was canceled entirely and rescheduled for Wednesday. Committee Chairman Eric LaFleur said the House version of the budget bill contained $27 million more than the state has money available, double-counting savings from the state’s Medicaid expansion that had already been used.
Kids Count 2016: Louisiana continues to lag
The annual Kids Count Data Book was released Tuesday, and it continues to contain bad news for Louisiana children. Louisiana ranks 48th among the states in the annual evaluation, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that rates states according to factors related to children’s economic well-being, health, education, and community issues. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Danielle Dreilinger reports that Louisiana’s lack of improvement since last year has a lot to do with the state’s persistently high poverty rate:
In Louisiana as in the nation, more children are living in poverty, and in high-poverty areas. … But in some areas, Louisiana has stagnated or gone down while the country is improving or holding steady. Fewer eighth graders pass their math tests. The state has failed to improve its teen alcohol and drug abuse rate, its rate of teenagers who are neither in school nor working or the number of children whose parent lacks a high school diploma. In all, Louisiana ranked 48th of 50, the same as last year.
The correlation between rising poverty rates and falling child well-being is clear. Without greater investment in low-income children, they argue, it will be impossible for states to ever reach their full potential:
More than two decades of research make it clear that growing up in a low-income family can have profound effects on children. Particularly when experienced by young children, poverty can impede their cognitive, social and emotional development and contribute to poor health. Continuing to ignore these issues increases a child’s likelihood of experiencing difficulties later in life, such as dropping out of school, becoming a teenage parent and facing poor employment outcomes. … We cannot allow economic hardship to limit the potential of nearly half of all American children.
“Close the Gap” helped Medicaid expansion
More than 215,000 Louisianans have signed up for health coverage ahead of the July 1 launch date for expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Kevin Litten takes a look back at how healthcare advocates paved the way for the long-awaited policy change:
Since enrollment began June 1, the department has held a series of events around the state featuring the governor, [LA Department of Health Secretary Rebekah] Gee and local officials. People who will receive health insurance under Medicaid expansion were always present at those events to put a human face on Medicaid expansion. Those events have helped drive interest in the newly available health insurance, prompting a surge in both Medicaid applications and calls to the managed care organizations that will implement Medicaid expansion. … [Louisiana Close the Gap campaign Executive Director T. Bradley] Keith said that it’s likely the response to Medicaid expansion has been driven by the fact that it’s always been a popular program in Louisiana. But there was also a lot of behind-the-scenes work that made the expanded program successful. “There’s a lot of history we’re working against,” he said, noting that the previous administration not only rejected Medicaid expansion but aggressively criticized it as a financial loser. “A lot of folks realize that the basis for the previous administration denying Medicaid expansion was more political than it was factual. As we’re telling people across the state the benefits, they’re just dumbfounded it wasn’t done before. And they’re very grateful.”
Helping former inmates avoid homelessness pays off
The president of the Vera Institute for Justice took to the New York Times opinion page this week to expose one of the many hurdles that awaits people recently released from prison. For years, private and public housing authorities could turn away tenants based on criminal histories. But after new rules from U.S. Housing and Urban Development took effect earlier this year, some states and localities are working make their housing policies more inclusive in order to comply. Columnist Nicholas Turner writes that New Orleans is one of the cities that’s working to put the new HUD policy into action:
For many years, New Orleans effectively kept most people with convictions out of public housing. That was no small feat for a city that sends more people to jail per capita than almost any other city in the country. But earlier this year, it became the first city to comprehensively rewrite its rules on criminal background checks in public housing applications. New Orleans now looks at the severity of the crime and the time since conviction to determine if an applicant can live in its public housing or should be further evaluated. For those who require more consideration, often for recent or serious convictions, a panel will make a decision based on the person’s criminal history, rehabilitation efforts, community ties and employment history. No one will be turned away from housing based on a conviction alone. … As promising as these reforms are, they’re just a few bright spots in an otherwise grim reality. All local housing authorities should follow these examples and revise their rules to align with HUD’s guidelines.
Number of the Day
306,000 – Number of Louisiana children living in poverty in 2014. (Source: 2016 Kids Count Data Book)