Seventy votes needed to tap rainy-day fund

Seventy votes needed to tap rainy-day fund

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan to patch the mid-year budget shortfall leans heavily on tapping the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, commonly known as the rainy-day fund.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan to patch the mid-year budget shortfall leans heavily on tapping the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, commonly known as the rainy-day fund. While it appears that Edwards can count on a two-thirds vote for the rainy-day in the Senate, the House vote is less certain. The magic number to reach the two-thirds threshold in the House is 70. Key legislators are hearing from constituents on the impacts of deeper cuts if funds from the rainy-day fund aren’t used. Gannett’s Greg Hilburn has the story for The News Star:

State Rep. Thomas Carmody of Shreveport heard from college presidents and hospital administrators this week, as did state Rep. Jack McFarland of Winnfield. State Rep. Jean-Paul Coussan of Lafayette said it would be easier for him to list those who haven’t called him than those who have…Carmody, Coussan and McFarland are among a group of 15 to 20 Republicans considered swing votes. Because Republicans are in the majority, Edwards must convince enough of them to join the Democrats. But so far those members aren’t willing to bend to the governor’s will. “Right now I don’t see that there’s 70 votes in the House,” Carmody said.


Edwards making another flood relief lobbying pitch

Amidst the revelry of Washington Mardi Gras, Gov. John Bel Edwards is taking some time to again press federal lawmakers on the need for increased disaster relief funding for Louisiana. Also nestled in Elizabeth Crisp’s story for The Advocate: Gov. Edwards will outline his plans for structural tax reform while in DC.

The bulk of the funding already received will go toward programs that help homeowners rebuild, but leaders say it won’t be enough to cover what’s needed. The state plans to put at least $1 billion more to homeowner rebuilding and reimbursement efforts, as well as provide additional funding for programs that promote rental growth and aid flood-affected businesses. Edwards is also seeking additional funding for mitigation projects, including the long-delayed Comite River diversion project. Edwards met with the state’s Congressional delegation Wednesday afternoon after arriving in Washington to discuss the effort to secure additional aid. On Thursday, Edwards has lined up meetings with House Democratic leadership staff; U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; incoming senior HUD staff; and Senate Appropriations Committee staff, among others.


The racial wealth gap

The income gap between white and black Americans has been well-documented. For instance, here in Louisiana, the average white worker takes in $56,093 compared to $27,537 for black workers. But just as troubling is a substantial wealth chasm. This means that the impacts of racial discrimination and income inequality- both past and present– compound over time. Bloomberg’s Peter Coy has the story of what’s driving the gap:

One powerful factor seems to be that whites are five times as likely as blacks to receive substantial gifts and inheritances, and the sums they get tend to be much larger. The money “can be used to jump-start further wealth accumulation, for example, by enabling white families to buy homes and begin acquiring equity earlier in their lives,” the study says. The result is that whites’ wealth advantage—and blacks’ disadvantage—gets passed down from generation to generation. Which means that forms of racial discrimination “that happened in the past, like redlining, continue to show up in bank accounts today,” says Traub.


Health care for homeless people

The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion has been a game changer for people who are homeless. Those who were once chronically uninsured and exposed to the elements now have increased access to care. And clinics that once served mostly uninsured people, now receive Medicaid reimbursements, allowing non-profits to open new facilities. Uncertainty over what’s going to happen at the federal level is causing anxiety among patients and providers alike. NPR’s Pam Fessler has the story:

Barbara DiPietro, policy director for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, says block grants will likely mean less federal funding for Medicaid, forcing cash-strapped states to make tough choices about whom to cover. So when we talk about (Republican assurances that) no one will lose coverage, that’s heartening,” said DiPietro. “But the details are always very important. What does that coverage look like? The population we serve typically falls through the cracks.”


Responding to devastation

In response to the multiple tornadoes that left a path of destruction earlier this week, the United Way of Southeast Louisiana set-up a tornado relief fund, is accepting in-kind donations, and is looking for volunteers to assist in the clean up effort. Further information can be found here. The Greater New Orleans Foundation has also set-up a tornado relief fund.


Number of the Day

36.9 – Percentage of Lake Charles’ GDP made up of exports, the third-highest percentage in the country. Baton Rouge comes in at number nine with 24.3 percent of its economy comprised of exports. (Source: The Brookings Institution via The Washington Post)