Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he wants to see a plan from those who insist the state can plug a $304 million midyear budget gap with cuts alone, without resorting to a special session or dipping into the rainy-day fund. The leader of House Republicans, Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria, responded Thursday with a plan that spares public colleges and universities, veterans programs and social services, but would make deep cuts to health care and K-12 education. The governor’s office and state Department of Health pushed back swiftly. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the story:
The spreadsheet doesn’t get into detailed explanations of how the cuts would fall on each agency. Instead, it describes how much money would be cut from each department and from which pools of financing — but it doesn’t recommend which individual programs should take the brunt of the reductions. The health department, for example, would decide how to divvy its $147 million hit, because Harris doesn’t offer specifics about where the cuts should fall. Health Department spokesman Bob Johannessen said the cuts would multiply with the loss of federal matching dollars to $423 million. With that reduction, Johannessen said the agency would have to stop paying the privatized LSU hospitals and clinics that care for the poor. He said dollars would be slashed for programs that help the elderly and disabled stay out of nursing homes. And he said the reduction would have a “crippling impact” on behavioral health programs that provide services to the mentally ill.
Transition of power
As Donald Trump prepares to take the oath of office, transition officials are reportedly preparing dramatic cuts to the federal budget. The plan, based on a blueprint from the conservative Heritage Foundation, aims to slash $10.5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton has the story:
The Heritage blueprint used as a basis for Trump’s proposed cuts calls for eliminating several programs that conservatives label corporate welfare programs: the Minority Business Development Agency, the Economic Development Administration, the International Trade Administration and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The total savings from cutting these four programs would amount to nearly $900 million in 2017. At the Department of Justice, the blueprint calls for eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation and for reducing funding for its Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions. At the Department of Energy, it would roll back funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminate the Office of Electricity, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and scrap the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Under the State Department’s jurisdiction, funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are candidates for elimination.
But, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump points out, the numbers don’t add up. In order to actually hit the $10.5 trillion number, cuts would have to be even steeper:
For example, about half of the government’s discretionary spending is on the military. Cutting all discretionary spending each year means cutting all funding for the military, which is both politically and rationally a nonstarter. The formulas for how much is spent on the non-discretionary spending can be adjusted, but Trump has pledged not to cut spending on the so-called “entitlement” programs. That, too, would be a tricky political move.
Meanwhile, The Advocate’s editorial board takes a look back at the legacy of outgoing President Barack Obama:
Also controversial here is the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but we like its expansion of Medicaid insurance coverage to the working poor. As a new health care initiative is worked out in Washington, we hope that Medicaid expansion will be retained. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were among the consolers of the nation in the wake of police shootings, including the horrific attack last July in Baton Rouge. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has also been a positive force in the wake of that turmoil in Louisiana. Disaster followed in Baton Rouge and across south Louisiana as historic flooding devastated thousands of families. Obama was quick to respond with disaster declarations and backed recovery aid on Capitol Hill. It hasn’t been as quick as we’d like, perhaps, but that has not been owing to any lack of support from the White House.
Governors warn Congress of ACA repeal impacts
More Republican governors are warning legislators not to roll back health insurance coverage for millions of people, joining Gov. John Bel Edwards and others who have also urged the new administration to maintain support for Medicaid expansion. Zachary Tracer and Anna Edney have the story for Bloomberg:
The leaders of states such as Ohio, Nevada, Idaho and even Alabama are urging a heavy dose of caution, according to statements and letters solicited by U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. They’re warning lawmakers as President-elect Donald Trump and congressional leaders come to grips with the reality of promises to end a law Trump styled “a disaster” even as it brought insurance to 20 million Americans. “We must be careful not to increase the rate of uninsured, particularly for our most vulnerable citizens,” Utah Governor Gary Herbert wrote in his letter. “Reforms must be fiscally prudent but, should maintain or improve affordable access to health care for those that are currently covered.” Herbert and eight other governors were in Washington today to talk behind closed doors with Senate Republicans in a meeting focused on changes to the joint state-federal Medicaid program, which the law greatly expanded. “Nobody’s going to lose coverage,” Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said after the meeting.
Working for racial equity
A new initiative aimed at racial healing is beginning here in Louisiana and across the country. The Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation project, from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will bring people together to bridge divides and achieve greater racial equity. In a guest column for NOLA.com/The-Times-Picayune, Flozell Daniels- president and CEO of Foundation for Louisiana– explains why this work is so important:
Post-Katrina, the ongoing displacement and the disproportionately slow recovery for black and brown New Orleanians show that there continues to be a racial divide — evidenced not just in jails and prisons but also in the school system, the housing market, health care institutions and the economy. A 2015 report by the Urban League of Greater New Orleans found that post-Katrina white households grew wealthier while black households did not, leading to an increase in the income gap of 18 percent. Further, the report found that more than half of black children in the city now live in poverty.
Number of the Day
$423 million – Amount of cuts to the Louisiana Department of Health under Rep. Lance Harris’ plan when accounting for loss of federal matching dollars. (Source: Louisiana Department of Health via The Associated Press)