Gov. John Bel Edwards released his executive budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year Thursday morning. It is built on $9.469 billion of state general fund dollars, which is $155 million less than in the current budget. The Louisiana Budget Project released a statement that emphasized that tax reform is needed to stop the cycle of cuts.
(The executive budget) cuts money for public colleges and universities, reduces funding for safety net hospitals, and fails to keep up with the rising cost of K-12 education. Nor does it address the long backlog of needs that have gone neglected in recent years: Need-based college aid, early childhood education for children from birth to 3, home- and community-based services for people with disabilities and basic upkeep of roads, bridges and college campuses. Legislators should also keep in mind that the relative stability represented by this budget plan is only fleeting, as Louisiana faces a $1.2 billion fiscal “cliff” in 16 months when several revenue measures are set to expire. This cliff, along with the many needs that are not being funded, is why fundamental reform of Louisiana’s broken tax system cannot wait.
The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports that Gov. Edwards has a list of significant state priorities that aren’t funded given the current revenue picture. Among those: full funding for TOPS and a boost to need-based Go Grants.
Included in the proposal is a list of things that Edwards would like to fund if more money is available. TOPS, which saw its first significant cut this year, is at the top of the list. To fully fund the scholarships would take about $81.8 million more in the budget. “My goal is to fully fund critical priorities of our state, most notably the TOPS program and transportation, but we cannot do that without making reforms and without additional revenue,” Edwards said in a statement. “This is a critical moment for our state, but I am confident that we can make the changes we need to so the priorities I have identified can be funded for the people of our state.”
Doubts grow on ACA repeal
As people concerned about the loss of health coverage speak out at town halls across the country, doubts about efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are growing. A new Pew Research Center poll backs up the individual voices, as support for the ACA hit an all-time high. Bloomberg’s editorial board documents these sentiments:
It’s a sensible concern. And Republicans could put it to rest. Millions of Americans, including many who voted Republican in November, don’t want to lose their insurance coverage. Governors, including Republicans such as Michigan’s Rick Snyder and Ohio’s John Kasich, don’t want to forfeit the gains that their states have made under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.
Forbes’ Bruce Jaspen notes that skepticism is mounting over House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan that includes significant cuts to Medicaid. These cuts would endanger home- and community-based services for seniors and disabled people, while forcing states to make tough choices about who loses coverage.
“Expansion states would be faced with the choice of ending Medicaid coverage for the millions covered under expansion, or taking on significant costs they had anticipated would be borne largely by the federal government,” Fitch Ratings senior director Jim Lebuhn wrote in a report following Ryan’s announcement of the policy brief.
Ryan’s predecessor, former House Speaker John Boehner, believes that any Republican changes to the ACA will be modest. Politico’s Darius Tahir has that story:
Former House Speaker John Boehner predicted on Thursday that a full repeal and replace of Obamacare is “not going to happen.” Boehner, who resigned in 2015 amid unrest among conservatives, said at an Orlando health care conference that the idea that a repeal-and-replace plan would blitz through Congress is just “happy talk.” Instead, he said changes to former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement would likely be relatively modest.
Consensus needed on criminal justice reform
The Advocate’s editorial board wrote Thursday that criminal justice reform should be comprehensive and palatable to a wide range of stakeholders. The board also warned about leaning in too much on projected savings. These would materialize over time, but- at first- reinvestment is needed in state services that help keep people out of prison.
We think there is a consensus that over-incarceration is a problem, and that’s a start. But to pass bills, there will have to be a way to bridge the differing viewpoints of the people who work in different parts of the criminal justice system. Pulling that together is vital to passage of a comprehensive package of prison reform measures. We would also caution the task force members against promising too much in the way of cost savings up front. If an offender isn’t in jail, he or she might well require a much more effective level of parole or probation oversight than we have now; treating drug offenders for their addictions is also costly. There are savings down the road, but in the meantime we have to ensure that changes to the system work effectively.
Paid leave for fathers
Paid family leave is often seen as solely a women’s issue. But, as Richard V. Reeves and Eleanor Krause explain in a blog for The Brookings Institution, parental leave for fathers is beneficial for men, women, and children.
Paternal involvement in childcare is not only good for dads and kids: it is good for women. The portion of fathers reporting that they have taken significant time off of work to care for a child or family member is just 60 percent that of mothers. Well-designed paternity leave policies can encourage a more equitable division of childcare. By boosting the role of fathers at home, paid paternity leave may also improve women’s earnings by enabling mothers to play a larger role in the labor market. An analysis of parental leave-taking in Sweden found that mothers’ incomes rise by an average of 7 percent for each month of paternity leave taken by the father.
Research on vouchers
Kevin Carey writes for The New York Times’ Upshot blog about recent research on school vouchers that allow families to send their children to non-public schools. New U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, supports vouchers. Carey cites one study that looked at Louisiana’s program and found negative results in reading and math.
Some voucher supporters observed that many private schools in Louisiana chose not to accept voucher students, and those that did had recently experienced declining enrollment. Perhaps the participating schools were unusually bad and eager for revenue. But this is another way of saying that exposing young children to the vagaries of private-sector competition is inherently risky. The free market often does a terrible job of providing basic services to the poor- see, for instance, the lack of grocery stores and banks in many low-income neighborhoods. This may also hold for education.
Joyeux Mardi Gras
The Daily Dime will be taking a Mardi Gras break. We’ll be back Wednesday, March 1.
Number of the Day
$440,524,730- Additional revenue needed to fund Gov. John Bel Edwards’ priority list for state funding, including: TOPS, Go Grants, hospitals, DOTD, K-12 education and more (Source: Louisiana Division of Administration)