Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan for plugging a mid-year budget shortfall is centered on delaying a monthly payment to Medicaid providers. The state had been on track to make 13 monthly payments this year, but will push one of them into the 2017-18 fiscal year. Higher education, already subject to massive cuts, will also face an $18 million reduction while the health department won’t receive $12 million it was expecting. The AP’s star reporter Melinda Deslatte has the story:
Edwards is proposing to reshuffle some financing, tap into available pots of money and make cuts. The largest piece of the plan involves delaying $152 million in payments to health providers that care for Medicaid patients. The payments will be shifted into the next fiscal year. “Given the ongoing financial crisis of our state, nothing is painless anymore,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “However, we knew this shortfall existed and worked with state agencies to prepare for it without causing unnecessary harm.” Legislative leaders were briefed on the proposal ahead of a Friday presentation to the joint House and Senate budget committee. All but $36 million of the cuts can be made without legislative approval.
The final decisions on cuts will wait until December, when the official revenue forecast is updated and legislators get a more complete view of the 2016-2017 shortfall.
As part of his proposal to close a more than $300 million deficit, the Democratic governor had planned an $18 million cut to higher education. That would be about 2 percent of colleges’ general state financing. Lawmakers urged the Edwards administration Friday to reconsider that cut, citing years of state financing reductions to colleges and a hit to the TOPS scholarship program this year. Edwards could make the cuts without legislative authorization, but he agreed to delay the entire budget-rebalancing plan until December, to continue negotiations with lawmakers.
Momentum for criminal justice reform
Criminal justice reform bills are being developed for the 2017 legislative session and bipartisan momentum is growing. Yesterday, members of the business community met to talk about best practices for reform while a task force putting together reform proposals also convened. The Advocate’s Bryn Stole reports:
After decades of locking ’em up on the way to Louisiana’s tops-in-the-nation incarceration rate, a growing bipartisan coalition of state political and business leaders are pushing a criminal justice reform platform to cut prison populations and shift the offenders into alternate forms of punishment and rehabilitation. Part of the appeal is cutting the massive bill borne by taxpayers to lock away convicts in prison, projected at about $500 million for the current fiscal year. But fixing the justice system won’t provide a quick path to solve Louisiana’s deep budget gap, politicians and experts warned during a pair of events Thursday aimed at crafting a coalition for change. Much of the savings should be pumped back into probation services, alternative forms of punishment and services designed to cut down on crime while shrinking the prison population.
Tax hikes for wealthy don’t hamper economy
Raising income taxes for the most wealthy is important for raising revenue to pay for important investments and does not slow economic growth. The idea that high taxation hinders high-income earners from creating jobs is flawed, according to Emmanuel Saez, a UC Berkeley economist. Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times has the story:
Saez also reiterates an old finding that “the best growth experience for the bottom 99 percent of income earners over the past 25 years took place in the mid-to-late 1990s and between 2013 and 2015 — following tax increases on the rich. “This suggests that taxing the rich more does not have detrimental effects on the broader economy,” he writes; “quite the contrary.”
Soda taxes find favor with voters
Soda taxes are becoming more common around the country as local governments look to promote public health. The sugary beverage industry is spending a lot of money to fight the taxes but voters in many cities approved them. Alexandra Sifferlin has the story for Time Magazine:
“I believe that with the recent outcomes, we are finally seeing the war against diabetes as something we might actually win,” says Dr. Dean Schillinger, a professor of medicine at University of California. It’s still too early to determine the effect soda taxes have on chronic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes, but research has shown that since Berkeley, California, passed a soda tax in 2014, sugary drink consumption dropped 20%. A year after Mexico passed a soda tax in 2014, early research reported an average 6% decline in purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages and a 4% average increase in untaxed beverages. Yet, some evidence suggests soda sales are back on the rise after the drop.
Future of federal education policy
The federal government only provides 10 percent of public school funding, but has a large hand in setting policy and standards. Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald looks into potential policy change under the Trump administration:
Trump has said he would shrink the Department of Education — or demolish it altogether — and vowed to be “the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice.” On the campaign trail he also called for an end to gun-free school zones, and for changes in the student loan system. His transition website, which devotes just two paragraphs to the subject, identifies a few other priorities including early childhood education and magnet and theme-based programs.
Conversations on child well-being, affordable housing
The state Department of Children and Family Services announced dates and times for north Louisiana listening sessions with Secretary Marketa Walters on poverty and child well-being. Check out the full schedule that includes stops in Alexandria, Monroe, and Shreveport here. In addition, the Louisiana Housing Alliance and Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance will hold a listening session about affordable housing in the Alexandria area. Here are the details:
What: Discussion on Affordable Housing
Date: Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Location: Diamond Grill Restaurant, 924 3rd St, Alexandria
The Daily Dime is taking a two-week hiatus so the staff can take a Thanksgiving breather and attend a professional development conference. We will return Dec. 5. Happy Thanksgiving!
Number of the day
12.5 – percent drop in per capita income in Tensas Parish from 2014 to 2015, the biggest drop in the state. Overall, the state had a 2.7 percent increase in per capita income over the period. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)