Jan. 31: Louisiana reactions to travel/refugee ban

Jan. 31: Louisiana reactions to travel/refugee ban

The worldwide tumult caused by President Donald Trump’s recent executive order halting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries is also being felt here in Louisiana.

The worldwide tumult caused by President Donald Trump’s recent executive order halting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries is also being felt here in Louisiana. Leaders in higher education and faith communities are speaking out. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard has reaction from the University of Louisiana system:


The University of Louisiana System, the state’s largest and headed by President Jim Henderson, issued a statement welcoming students and faculty “from around the globe.” The statement said internationals contribute to a diverse learning culture. “Our universities are working closely with students, faculty and staff who may be impacted by the executive order,” the statement said. “We value immensely the work of our faculty and staff from the U.S. as well as those from other countries including employees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.”


LSU’s president also weighed in:


“Academia depends upon the exchange of ideas with colleagues from around the world. In fact, the ability to attract and engage scientists, scholars and students from around the world is one of the reasons American universities are leaders in innovation,” LSU President F. King Alexander said in a statement Monday.


Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Danielle Dreillinger reports on reactions from New Orleans-area universities:


Presidents at the University of New Orleans, Tulane and Loyola University at New Orleans gave practical advice to their communities via email, encouraging foreign nationals to contact immigration lawyers if they planned to travel. Tulane graduate students who cannot re-enter the country may defend their dissertations via Skype, President Michael Fitts said.


Loyola University’s President Rev. Kevin Wildes spoke out in moral terms:


“This order is something that affects us all to our core,” he wrote. “Not only is the turning away of refugees in direct conflict with our Catholic, Jesuit values, but it is also contrary to our American ideals and constitutional rights as a free country that welcomes immigrants and does not discriminate on the basis of religion or national origin.”


New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond spoke in similar terms, saying “The recent executive orders regarding immigration and refugee resettlement do not support our Catholic principles.”


Federal elected officials are also chiming in. Sen. Bill Cassidy called for the order to be “further refined.” Sen. John Kennedy was fully supportive along with much of the House delegation. Rep. Cedric Richmond voiced strong opposition while Reps. Garrett Graves and Mike Johnson have been noticeably silent on the issue.


Transportation department opens door to public/private partnerships

Looking to put a dent in the $13 billion backlog of road and bridge repairs, state officials are opening the door to partnership with private firms. A first in Louisiana, the partnerships- a source of much debate in policy circles- are aimed specifically at interstate upgrades in and around Baton Rouge. The Advocate’s Will Sentell has the story:


Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said Monday DOTD’s proposal is worth exploring. “I think we need to look at all the options,” said Cortez, who was a member of the task force…In 2016, Cortez sponsored the legislation that paved the way for DOTD to ask private firms if they would be interested in partnering with the state. The announcement could spur legislative interest in finding dollars for transportation if they could make a public/private partnership reality, and speed work on high-profile projects. How to repair Louisiana’s roads and bridges has sparked pleas for bold steps versus political realities about tax hikes, especially when other state services are facing major cuts.


Louisiana would be loser in a trade war

Lake Charles’ economy is the third-most export dependent in the country, while Baton Rouge comes in at number 9. Looking only at the largest metros in the country, Baton Rouge and New Orleans are number one and three, respectively, in terms of dependence on exports. This is important because if trading partners raise taxes on U.S. exported goods in response to U.S. policies, Louisiana’s economy and consumers would be adversely impacted. The Brookings Institution’s’ Joseph Parilla and Mark Muro explain.


Trade is generally regarded as a national issue, but it is underpinned by local collections of firms that often concentrate together to form industrial clusters. This means that changes in federal trade policy can have large implications for individual communities, whose reliance on trade can vary widely by dint of the tradability of their local industry mix and overall global orientation.


State IG worries about more budget cuts

Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street doesn’t know what’s in store for his department as the state faces another round of mid-year cuts. But, already, his office- tasked with leading anti-corruption investigations- has shrunk. Street spoke at the Press Club yesterday along with IGs from Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:


Street has served as the state’s inspector general, a job within the executive branch tasked with investigating public corruption and fraud, since 2008. His second six-year term will expire in 2020. During that time he’s faced repeated threat of cuts. Street’s office has shrunk from 17 positions to 13 in the past two budget cycles. Now the state is preparing for yet another mid-year budget cut. Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to call legislators into a special session Feb. 13-23 to shore up a $304 million shortfall.


Benefits of paid family leave

Implementing paid family leave has a range of benefits that eventually outweighs the cost to states. That’s the finding of a new report from the Brookings Institution. Paid family leave provides economic security for working parents and family members and leads to lower worker turnover. The Brookings Institution’s Harry Holzer breaks down what it would mean for both workers and employers.


Most paid family leave plans are financed through some version of a payroll tax, rather than a simple mandate on employers. This is a largely sensible approach, as it spreads the costs of providing leave over employers and all employees. In most states that have implemented paid family leave to date, something like a 1 percentage point tax on payroll has been sufficient to fund the amount of leave taken by employees. This extra 1 percent of tax, relative to the 15.3 percent federal social security taxes already levied on payroll plus other taxes (e.g., for unemployment insurance), is not a terrible additional burden but also not trivial.


Number of the Day

1.2 million-  American jobs lost if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, including over 28,000 in Louisiana. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)