Plugging Louisiana’s gaping mid-year budget gap may require even larger cuts to hospitals, universities and safety-net services than Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration is contemplating. That’s because, as Gannett’s Greg Hilburn reports, Republicans in the House are resisting the governor’s call to use $119 million from the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund to help fill the $313 million shortfall. House members are objecting to balancing the budget using the same tactics they approved of during the previous administration.
“It’s been raining all year,” Dardenne said. “If we’re not in a rainy day now I don’t know when we’ll ever be. I’ve been meeting with departments for the last three weeks on a plan (for cuts), but the plan was on the premise of using $119 million from the Rainy Day Fund. “This is an irresponsible position to take. It’s going to be impossible to make $313 million in cuts and not have a serious impact on the things the Legislature has said it wants to protect like hospitals and higher ed.”
A special lawmaking session to address the budget deficit is expected to occur in February in the two-week period between Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports that GOP leaders have been diligently meeting to review various tax recommendations and to come up with potential budget cuts. So far the only suggestions are to raise $90 million from low-income Medicaid patients by imposing co-pays – a plan that was rejected last year by a House committee – and broadening the state’s sales tax.
Charter schools and bureaucracy
Public schools in charter-dominated New Orleans spend more money on transportation and overhead and less money in the classroom than do traditional public schools, according to a new study from Tulane University. The AP’s Kevin McGill reports that transportation costs are up because giving parents greater choice of where their children attend schools means more money is needed to bus kids around the Crescent City. But the biggest reason for the disparity is simple: Charter schools pay their teachers less and their administrators more.
“Almost all of the decrease in total instructional salaries is due to lower average salaries per instructor, though new teachers still earn more today than teachers pre-Katrina who had the same years of experience,” the study said. Meanwhile, spending on administration at the school and district level – principals, assistant principals and other non-teaching staff at schools and charter offices – is up steeply. Administrative costs were 66 percent higher in New Orleans than in the comparison group, with half of that attributable to salaries.
Paying more to defend abortion restrictions
The private law firm hired by Attorney General Jeff Landry to defend Louisiana’s controversial new abortion law against legal challenges will be paid $385 per hour – or 71 percent more than the $225 hourly rate that the state normally pays to private attorneys. As Julia O’Donoghue of Nola.com/The Times-Picayune reports, the arrangement has the blessing of Gov. John Bel Edwards, with whom Landry has frequently feuded in the past.
Edwards and Landry — who both oppose abortion — are interested in a strong defense of Louisiana’s latest abortion restrictions. The restrictions include new requirements that would force many women to wait 72 hours and undergo ultrasounds before getting abortions. Louisiana is also partially banning a procedure called dilation and evacuation. Edwards signed these new restrictions into law himself.
It’s not the first lucrative state payday for attorney Kyle Duncan, a Baton Rouge native and former state solicitor general.
The attorney earned at least $330,000 defending Louisiana’s same-sex marriage ban for (former Louisiana Attorney General Buddy) Caldwell in 2015, before the United State Supreme Court declared such bans unconstitutional, according to an analysis done by The Times-Picayune. The Advocate newspaper also reported Duncan was paid at least $400,000 — and possibly as much as $750,000 — by the Jindal administration for defending a previous package of abortion restrictions in court.
America: This is your future
With a new administration about to take over in Washington, Politico’s Dana Goldstein decided to look at what lies ahead for America – not over the next four years, but the next 40 years as demographic changes take hold. It’s an interesting tale that reaches some familiar conclusions (America is rapidly becoming more diverse) and includes this nugget to keep in mind as debate intensifies over whether to build a massive, expensive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border:
Unauthorized immigration peaked in 2007, when George W. Bush was president. During President Obama’s two terms, more Mexican immigrant families left the U.S. (about 1 million) than arrived (about 870,000). The slowdown was due to several factors: increased border security, more deportations and fewer job opportunities during the Great Recession. Only six states have experienced net growth in their undocumented populations in recent years: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Louisiana and Washington.
Number of the Day
$699 – The amount by which per-pupil spending on administrative overhead in New Orleans charter schools exceeds such spending in a comparison group of public school districts (Source: Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane University)