Doubling down on a decade of cuts, Louisiana’s House-passed budget not only maintained cuts proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards but deepened the pain for healthcare and children’s services by failing to allocate all available money. Agencies are now making presentations to the Senate Finance Committee, where there is hope the most damaging cuts will be reversed. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp has the latest.
Over the past several days, the Finance Committee has heard from various agency heads about their budget needs and what the state could lose through cuts. One by one, most asked that their budgets not be cut, but it’s unclear how the state would be able to stave off any cuts without an increase in revenue, and the House tax committee has been cool to major revenue-generators this session. One of the recurring themes: State agency heads are bothered by the high turnover rates in their departments, as state employees have in many cases gone years without pay raises and have taken on increased work when positions have gone unfilled. “My gosh, I’ve lost some good people,” Inspector General Stephen Street said.
Right now, there are two budget debates happening: The first deals with how the Senate will amend the House-passed budget that covers the 2017-18 fiscal year. In addition, as Tyler Bridges reports for The Advocate, not having a solution to the fiscal cliff that will impact the 2018-19 budget is likely to lead to a special session. But, if legislators can’t come to agreement on the 2017-18 budget by this session’s June 8 adjournment, the governor would immediately call for a special session.
In its budget, (Senate President John) Alario said, he expects the Senate will want to spend closer to the full 100 percent of the money available, an extra $200 million or so. “There are some real big needs in children and family services,” he said. “If we don’t fund them, there will be abused children.” After the Senate approves its version of the budget, the two chambers will have to settle on a final version by June 8 — or else trigger the immediate special session.
Trump budget shifts priorities
President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to present a budget this week that will drastically cut funds for programs that help families struggling to make ends meet, while providing massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. The Washington Post’s Damian Paletta describes where some of these cuts would fall.
The proposed changes to Medicaid and SNAP will be just some of several anti-poverty programs that the White House will look to change. In March, the White House signaled that it wanted to eliminate money for a range of other programs that are funded each year by Congress. This included federal funding for Habitat for Humanity, subsidized school lunches and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal agencies.
Politico’s Rachel Bade and Sarah Ferris report that the House Budget Committee is pursuing a similar approach.
But among the programs most likely on the chopping block, the sources say, are food stamps, welfare, income assistance for the disabled and perhaps even veterans benefits. If enacted, such a plan to curb safety-net programs — all while juicing the Pentagon’s budget and slicing corporate tax rates — would amount to the biggest shift in federal spending priorities in decades.
Long road remains for gas tax
Broad agreement exists that many of Louisiana’s roads and bridges sorely need an upgrade. But, anti-tax sentiment at the Capitol is making it hard to round up the necessary votes to do anything about it. The Advocate’s Will Sentell has the latest.
No one doubts that the state faces huge transportation problems, especially in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette. The $13.1 billion backlog of roads and bridge needs, and another list of new “mega” projects like a new bridge across the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, are part of almost every debate on the gas tax, which has not been changed in 28 years. … While Republicans have gotten lots of credit for killing tax bills designed to address state budget problems, four GOP members of the Ways and Means Committee endorsed Carter’s bill.
Trump administration continues healthcare sabotage
This week, as the U.S. Senate considers its plans for repealing the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office will provide an update on health insurance losses under the House-passed healthcare bill. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to sabotage the health system, attracting the criticism of state insurance commissioners. The New York Times’ Robert Pear has the story:
Frustrated state officials have ideas for stabilizing the individual insurance market, but they say they cannot figure out where to make their case because they have been bounced from one agency to another in the Trump administration. … State insurance commissioners have joined insurers, hospitals and congressional Democrats in urging the administration to pay “cost-sharing” subsidies, and federal health officials initially indicated that they would do so. But Mr. Trump countermanded them, refusing to make any long-term commitment.
Number of the Day
$120 – Additional amount Louisiana drivers would pay at the pump in a year, on average, if Rep. Steve Carter’s proposed 17-cent gas tax boost is approved. (Source: The Advocate)