Fighting something with nothing

Fighting something with nothing

The efforts to raise the state gas tax to finance transportation projects got a political boost on Tuesday when a broad coalition of business groups said Louisiana needs to raise an additional $500 million per year.

Number of the Day

1.03 - Number of painkiller prescriptions per person in Louisiana in 2015, the sixth-highest rate in the nation. Gov. John Bel Edwards is supporting legislation that would limit prescriptions for opioids. (Source: Associated Press)

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ tax reform plan has drawn fire from corporate lobbyists. But with the start of the regular session five days away, there have been no substantive recommendations from Republican leaders in the Legislature on how to improve it. The Advocate’s Lanny Keller says the governor’s plan to replace sales-tax revenue with money from a new gross receipts tax isn’t perfect. But if the Legislature is dead-set against raising revenue by eliminating costly personal income tax exemptions, what other options are there?

When the GOP stacked the House Appropriations Committee with committed budget-cutters, some good might have come of it, as goodness knows there are whole regions of the budget that have been unexplored for savings through efficiency. But after a year of small-bore grousing about tiny amounts of money here or there, even in the larger House the committee is not persuasive to many GOP members as a compelling voice of anti-Edwards agitation.That leaves the opposition not leaderless exactly, but still far from having a plan.

 

Specter of AHCA revival spooks markets

Despite the 17 percent national approval rating for the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, there are rumblings that House Republicans want to revive the effort, without the popular provision that prevents insurers from price discrimination based on pre-existing medical conditions. A new report by Aviva Aron-Dine at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains that the current uncertainty is destabilizing insurance markets.

Not only would enacting the AHCA shrink enrollment and raise per-enrollee costs in the individual market in 2018, the possibility of enactment will lead insurers to propose higher rates than they otherwise would, and it could discourage them from offering plans in the individual market at all. As a result, Republican leaders’ refusal to foreclose bringing some version of the AHCA to a vote will impose tangible costs on individual market consumers.

Topher Spiro and Emily Gee write in The Washington Post about how President Donald Trump could move forward with real bipartisan reform, but first must end the uncertainty enveloping the health system:

To make sure the administration bolsters the existing policy before Congress can improve it, Trump should convene insurers at the White House as soon as possible. He should reassure them that he will not weaken the individual mandate or stop funding subsidies for consumers’ deductibles and other cost-sharing.

 

Gas tax gains momentum

The efforts to raise the state gas tax to finance transportation projects got a political boost on Tuesday when a broad coalition of business groups said Louisiana needs to raise an additional $500 million per year. The BUILD IT coalition aims to reduce the state’s $13 billion backlog of transportation and infrastructure projects, in addition to a backlog of $16 billion for “mega” projects, such as a new Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge. The Advocate’s Will Sentell has the story:

“If a major new revenue source is not passed this year, our next opportunity will not come until 2021,” Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC said in a statement. “Frankly, that is not an option.” Others in the organization include Blueprint Louisiana; Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission; Greater New Orleans Regional Economic Alliance; SWLA Economic Development Alliance and the North Louisiana Economic Partnership.”This coalition demonstrates strong support from every single region of our state for increasing transportation revenues,” Jason El Koubi, president and CEO of One Acadiana, said in a statement…”This is a way to create a better way of life for our people,” he said, a reference to increased spending on roads and bridges.

Leaders of the coalition cited the 2017 Louisiana Survey by Louisiana State University’s Public Policy Research Lab, that found that 57 percent of respondents supported raising taxes to fund transportation infrastructure.

 

Scraping for cash

In an effort to chip away atthe $440 million budget shortfall, Sen. Eric LaFleur wants to take a closer look at various accounts squirreled away in various state agencies. LaFleur, who chairs the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee, is sponsoring legislation that would tighten rules around these escrow and special bank accounts. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the story:

It’s not that the senator wants to redirect the money to other parts of the budget — a maneuver heavily criticized when former Gov. Bobby Jindal used it repeatedly to patch together the state operating budget. LaFleur said lawmakers, however, should be able to use the information during budget deliberations to determine the needs of an agency. “If an agency has money in an account that hasn’t been counted and they’re coming to us for money, we have to count the money that’s available for them to spend,” he said. “What’s your budget need, $1 million? Well, you already have $200,000 there so you’re only going to get $800,000.”

 

#InvestInLa social media campaign launches

As the legislative session approaches, the #InvestInLa tax reform campaign is gearing up. Here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Share your story: How have budget cuts impacted you or your community? Why is tax reform important to you and your family? Share your story in our Action Center.
  2. Sign up for our Thunderclap: On Thursday, April 13 at noon, we want to flood the #lalege Twitter channel and our Facebook profiles with messages of support for comprehensive tax reform. It’s easy to add your voice by signing up here.
  3. Share real Louisianians’ stories on social media: Right now, we’re sharing real stories from everyday people around the state — the same ones we’re hoping to collect from you. Head to our Facebook page or Twitter and share them with friends and family.

 

Number of the Day

1.03 – Number of painkiller prescriptions per person in Louisiana in 2015, the sixth-highest rate in the nation. Gov. John Bel Edwards is supporting legislation that would limit prescriptions for opioids. (Source: Associated Press)