CAT on the hot seat
Members of the House Ways & Means Committee spent several hours on Monday reviewing Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed Commercial Activities Tax, and when it was over the media joined committee Republicans in declaring the bill dead. Amendments to make the business tax more palatable to business groups reduced its fiscal impact to $288 million per year – or about one-third of what it was originally projected to generate. The News Star’s Greg Hilburn reports:
“It’s time for us to decide if we want to help 90 percent of citizens to get a tax cut — the people who go to work every day and take care of their families,” said [Rep. Sam] Jones, calling out corporate lobbyists in the hearing room wearing their “Armani suits.” Acadiana lawmaker Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, said adding taxes to businesses with Louisiana mired in recession is counterproductive. “I think we have to look at the economy and bringing business back here to put people back to work,” DeVillier said. “I don’t think by taxing businesses more it puts anybody back to work.”
Louisiana’s state sales tax should not apply to diapers and feminine hygiene products, a state Senate committee decided on Monday. Senate Bills 24 and 27 – both by Sen. J.P. Morrell of New Orleans – cleared the Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Committee unanimously. Louisiana already exempts other basic necessities like food, prescription drugs and home utilities from sales taxes. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue was watching:
“It’s always been offensive for me that we do not charge men taxes on Viagra and Cialis because they are prescription drugs. There are a plenty of prescription drugs that fall into a quality-of-life type of category: [Diapers and sanitary products] aren’t optional,” Morrell said last month. Making the change requires two-thirds approval of both the Senate and the House before it goes to the voters. If approved, the exemption would take effect in January.
Healthcare’s leash on jobs and pricing
The ongoing growth in America’s healthcare industry has led to an increase in health sector jobs, but some say those jobs are driving up the cost of health care. Thirty-five percent of U.S. job growth since the recession has come from the influx of federal dollars into the health sector, with one in nine Americans now employed in the health care. Unfortunately that growth hasn’t translated into better patient outcomes or system efficiency, because many of the new jobs are not related to patient care. Chad Terhune explains how more administrative jobs inflate the cost of care in Kaiser Health News.
Labor accounts for more than half of the $3.4 trillion spent on U.S. health care, and medical professionals from health aides to nurse practitioners are in high demand. For every physician, there are 16 other workers in U.S. health care. And half of those 16 are in administrative and other nonclinical roles, said Bob Kocher, a former Obama administration official who worked on the Affordable Care Act. “I find super-expensive drugs annoying and hospital market power is a big problem,” Kocher said. “But what’s driving our health insurance premiums is that we are paying the wages of a whole bunch of people who aren’t involved in the delivery of care. Hospitals keep raising their rates to pay for all of this labor.”
Racial inequity in capital punishment
A bill to end the death penalty in Louisiana is gaining support, according to its lead author and former prosecutor, Sen. Dan Claitor. Claitor argues the death penalty fails to deter crime, is costly to the state, and is very infrequently carried out. Supporters of ending capital punishment also say it’s applied in a discriminatory manner, and point to the high number of death row inmates in Louisiana who have been exonerated. Sam Karlin of LSU’s Manship School News Service has more:
A black man is 30 times more likely to be sentenced to death for killing a white female than another black male, and anyone who kills a white person is six times more likely to be given the death penalty than someone who kills a black person, the authors found. “The racial disparities even extend into the appeals process, where cases of killers of white are clearly less likely to be reversed,” the authors wrote in the study, adding no white person has been executed in Louisiana for a crime against a black victim since 1752.
Number of the Day
5.7 percent– Unemployment rate in Louisiana, which has decreased for 4 consecutive months. (Source: Louisiana Workforce Commission)