Dec. 7: Deeper cuts coming soon

Dec. 7: Deeper cuts coming soon

Louisiana’s mid-year budget gap has swelled to $600 million, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told legislators on Tuesday, as tax revenues continue to come in below projections.

Louisiana’s mid-year budget gap has swelled to $600 million, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told legislators on Tuesday, as tax revenues continue to come in below projections. That means a new round of cuts for health-care, education and other vital programs that already have suffered through multiple reductions in recent years. The news came as the House Appropriations Committee began grilling state agencies about their budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year in an effort to find savings.  NOLA.com/Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue was there, and notes that Gov. John Bel Edwards was right when he said the revenue measures passed by the Legislature earlier this year were not enough to shore up the state’s shaky finances.

Edwards warned in June that mid-year cuts were likely, saying the state’s finances were precarious. He urged the Legislature to pass even higher taxes because he expected a shortfall. House Republican balked at the governor’s statements and suggested that more money would come in from the tax increases that economists’ estimates showed. Because they expected more money, the lawmakers refused to raise taxes as the governor suggested or make additional cuts before June 30.

 

Pay transparency can lead to equity

Under a new Obama administration rule more transparency will be coming to the gender pay gap, as federal regulators receive more data from companies in order to better enforce the law. However, this aggregate information will not be available at the employer-level, which would require legislation from Congress. Julie Kashen has an op/ed in Politico about the implications of the new rule.

 

The Equal Pay Act makes pay discrimination by gender illegal. Unfortunately, too often both employees and enforcement agencies do not know that discrimination is happening. For example, Lilly Ledbetter, who fought in court for 10 years because she was paid less than men who did the same work at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., found out about the pay disparity only when a colleague sent her an anonymous note. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and collecting pay data will bring discriminatory pay practices into the light…When pay information is secret, it is impossible for regulators to enforce the law. The Obama administration’s action will for the first time create a central database of private-sector pay information that regulators can use to shine a light on pay disparities and help the EEOC target its enforcement.

 

Repealing the ACA won’t be easy

Republicans on Capitol Hill appear united in their zeal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has allowed 20 million Americans to gain health coverage and brought the uninsured rate to a record low. But as they dig into the details, they are discovering that it’s a lot more complicated than it looks on the surface. For one thing, there are parts of the law that virtually everyone wants to preserve, such as the ability to buy health insurance with a pre-existing medical condition. But doing so requires some form of mandate that people buy coverage when they’re healthy, or else the insurance marketplace would simply collapse.  Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times reports:

 

Many proposals the GOP has offered as replacements end up looking very much like Obamacare, though with more costs shifted to consumers. A repeal bill passed by the Republican House in February would have eliminated the mandate that all individuals have coverage, the subsidies that made it affordable, and $346 billion in taxes (over 10 years) that funded Obamacare but hit wealthy taxpayers. This would certainly have destroyed the ACA, but it was easy for the GOP to pass, because it was 100% certain to be vetoed by President Obama. Such symbolic votes can’t be taken any more.

 

Coming up short on flood relief

Congress appears ready to finish its work for the year with a stopgap spending bill that includes $1.2 billion for Louisiana to help with recovery efforts from the August flooding. While the money is being welcomed by state officials, it’s far less than the $4 billion Gov. John Bel Edwards said is needed to help residents rebuild homes and businesses. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp:  

 

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, said he thinks that the process should be sped up through federal waivers that would cut down wait times. “It is clear that the government’s recovery efforts to date are wholly insufficient to allow for a full recovery,” Graves said Tuesday. “Thousands and thousands of flood victims are still facing impossible financial decisions almost five months after the 1,000-year flood, but this funding, combined with the $438 million provided in September will help flood victims get back on their feet if we can get it in their hands quickly – we cannot allow the slow, bureaucratic processes that have defined the federal response so far continue to re-victimize people.”

Number of the Day

0.4-  Percentage increase in Louisiana gross domestic product in the second quarter of 2016. Nationally, GDP grew by 1.2 percent (Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)