Louisiana lost out on millions of dollars in tax revenue thanks to a disastrous decision by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to put the Department of Natural Resources in charge of severance tax field audits that had previously been conducted by the state Department of Revenue. A 2013 Legislative Auditor’s report found that the audits brought in $26 million in 2010 – the year before the switch – but that the figure dropped to $16,582 during the three years when DNR was responsible. Audit authority has since been shifted back to the revenue department. Mike Stagg of IND has the story:
The idea that DNR should be in the business of auditing severance tax revenue from the oil and gas industry raised red flags even among supporters of the industry. “Having DNR audit the industry would not pass the smell test,” Roy O. Martin III, Jindal’s appointee as vice chair of the Commission on Streamlining Government, tells The Independent. “And I’m in the oil and gas business.” The eight-page LDR/DNR agreement, finalized on June 17, 2010, proved to be a disaster for the state but a bonanza for the oil and gas industry.
Deal reached on Shreveport teaching hospital
After a prolonged back and forth between the state and the Biomedical Research Foundation, a deal is coming together to continue charity care in Monroe and Shreveport. Earlier this year, Gov. John Bel Edwards asked Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne to review all the state contracts with private hospitals for charity care put in place under the Jindal Administration, with an eye towards long-term viability. Gannett’s Greg Hilburn has the story, with reactions from some state lawmakers:
State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said the deal will provide peace of mind to those who depend on the hospitals for their health care. “This has been unsettling to everyone who relies on these safety net hospitals,” Thompson said. “This deal will ensure seamless care for those who need it most and provide assurance for the employees who have been uncertain about their future.” State Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, said he was “cautiously optimistic” the deal would yield stability. “I really want to credit the University Health employees who had their world turned upside down three years ago (when the state privatized the system), but have continued to perform at a level in which amplified the case for BRF to continue,” Glover said. “They put together a body of work that made it impossible for any (naysayers) to ignore.”
Expand the EITC
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) rewards the efforts of those working to make ends meet. However, many adults who aren’t raising kids are excluded from the full benefits of the EITC. A bipartisan federal expansion proposal would have broad benefits, promoting work and reducing poverty. Rachid Ouedraogo, a Lafayette accountant, makes the case in a letter to The Advocate:
We can start by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which, along with the Child Tax Credit, lifted 9.2 million people out of poverty in 2015. The problem is that the EITC currently excludes millions of younger workers and others not raising children. Including these workers would benefit more than 400,000 Americans in Louisiana. Expanding the EITC has wide bipartisan support, including from President Barack Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan. So let’s make sure that whatever happens in November, our new president and congress take action to make sure that all hardworking Americans have a shot at a brighter future.
Support for death penalty falling
For the first time in 45 years, fewer than half of Americans support the death penalty according to a Pew Research Center poll. Recent debates on the death penalty have focused on an array of concerns about the practice: constitutionality, cost, racial bias, botched executions, and morality. While the survey doesn’t tell us what’s behind the decline in public support, it’s clear that Americans’ views are shifting, as Niraj Chokshi explains in The New York Times.
The flagging support for the death penalty aligns with a decline in the number of executions nationwide, which peaked in 1999 when 98 people were put to death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. There have been 15 executions so far this year, and a few more are scheduled. Nine states have suspended capital punishment in the past five years, and 30 still allow it, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Number of the Day
20 million – Number of children helped each month by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)