The Legislature wrapped up its business for the years at 11:15 p.m. Thursday by passing a supplemental budget bill that distributes $263 million in new revenue among a variety of programs and services. That’s less than half the money Gov. John Bel Edwards sought when he called lawmakers into a special session. Elizabeth Crisp and Tyler Bridges of The Advocate have the details.
Because the $263 million was much less than the $600 million, cuts are coming for K-12 schools, LSU’s medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport, state museums, prisons, the governor’s office, the Legislature, the judiciary, schools for the deaf and visually impaired, the attorney general’s office and dozens of other programs. The state’s colleges and universities — after suffering repeated budget cuts during Gov. Bobby Jindal’s eight years in office – were getting the full $55 million that Edwards sought for their programs and $4.5 million more for Grambling and Southern universities… The budget gives $50 million for the safety-net hospitals that serve the poor, the full amount sought by Edwards but $30 million less than the private hospital providers wanted. A $44 million shortfall in state aid for public schools was trimmed to $24 million.The budget did not have the $24 million to open the Acadiana Center for Youth in Bunkie, a state-of-the-art facility that aims to keep youth out of trouble once their imprisonment ends.
Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press has the story on TOPS.
Lawmakers agreed to cover only 70 percent of tuition costs for students in the TOPS college program, meaning students will have to pay more for school. It’s the first time since its creation that TOPS has taken a cut. In a deal pushed by House leaders, the money is front-loaded to cover the full cost of tuition for the fall semester, while levying a 42 percent cut in the spring. Edwards opposed the arrangement but wouldn’t say if he would line-item veto it.
Mann: College disinvestment continues
Nola.com/Times Picayune columnist Bob Mann writes that higher education in Louisiana could soon become unaffordable for many. Years of budget cuts have given rise to spiraling tuition and fees – a pattern that’s likely to continue if voters approve a fall ballot initiative giving institutions the ability to raise tuition without legislative approval.
If approved, schools will no longer need a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to charge students more. Believe me, if the amendment passes, the history of public universities in Louisiana is over. Lawmakers will tell college presidents: “You’ve been begging us for years to give you the authority to set your tuition. So, now you have it. Raise all the revenue you like, just don’t come to us begging for more money.”…If voters help them this fall by approving this amendment, the “S” in LSU will soon no long [sic] stand for “State.” It will stand, instead, for “surrender.”
Low-wage workers struggling to survive
A new project from Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that almost half of the nation’s workforce earn under $15 an hour and one in four low-wage workers do not earn sick time. In Louisiana that translates to 896,431 workers who make less than $15 an hour, representing 48.7 percent of the work force.
Once, people knew that hard work could pay off: they could support a family, save for retirement, educate their children, or even own a home. That is no longer true. People doing low-wage jobs do vital work that keeps the economy humming: they care for the young and elderly, prepare food, clean offices, and help customers. These jobs are essential, but the economy has stopped adequately compensating the workers who do them. Wages are stagnating and demands on workers are increasing. And this trend is only growing worse, as the jobs of the future are concentrated in sectors with low wages and threadbare benefits. .. Oxfam and EPI are proposing a set of policy changes which will ensure that hard work is rewarded, and that the economy functions for everyone. Together, we have created an interactive web site with a series of maps of that illustrate concentrations of working poor in the states; and a new report that explores four essential policy shifts: Raise the federal minimum wage; Provide access to earned sick leave; Protect overtime pay for millions of workers; Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Housing subsidies benefit the wealthy
New data shows that 60 percent of what the federal government spends on housing benefits households with incomes above $100,000. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities cites a new report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies that finds the number of Americans struggling to afford rent is on the rise and low-income renters are hit the hardest.
By contrast, 68 percent of families with what the Department of Housing and Urban Development terms “severe housing cost burdens” — those who pay more than half of their income for housing — have incomes below $20,000. Yet only 22 percent of federal housing spending assists families in that income range. This imbalance means, for example, that households with incomes above $200,000 received an average of $6,406 in housing subsidies in 2014, four times more than the average household below $20,000. The mismatch between housing spending and needs has severe consequences for low-income families, especially children. Three-fourths of low-income families eligible for federal rental assistance don’t receive it due to funding limitations. … Research shows that low-income families with children without rental assistance are more likely to experience homelessness, frequent moves, and overcrowding than similar families with assistance.
Number of the Day:
59.4 – The percentage of women in Louisiana that make under $12 and hour – the highest percentage in the nation (Source: Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute).