House GOP seeks more cuts

House GOP seeks more cuts

It’s shaping up as a pivotal week for the tax and budget debate.

Number of the Day

11.28 - Infant mortality rate, per 1,000 births, for black babies in Louisiana. The overall state average is 7.63 and the national average is 5.82 (Source: The Advocate)

It’s shaping up as a pivotal week for the tax and budget debate. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to pass its version of the budget bill on Monday, while right next door the Ways & Means Committee will decide whether it’s willing to raise enough revenue to avert next year’s $1.4 billion fiscal “cliff” and avoid more cuts to higher education, public health and other vital programs. The AP’s star reporter, Melinda Deslatte, has a scene-setter and notes that much of the focus will be on a new business tax proposed by Rep. Kenny Havard.

Havard’s bill, up for debate Monday, would enact a new business tax for larger companies that file their taxes through the state’s corporate income and franchise tax laws. The income and franchise taxes would go away, replaced with what Havard calls a “profit margins tax.”

The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges has more on Havard’s bill, and reports that legislators may choose to simply renew all or parts of the temporary 1-cent sales tax instead of replacing it with an improved tax structure.

The inability of either (Gov. John Bel) Edwards or the Republican leaders to explain at this point how they would solve the fiscal cliff has put the sales tax into play, especially because lawmakers say they have heard few complaints from constituents about it.

The budget-writers on the Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, want to cut next year’s budget far below the levels outlined by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue reports what the GOP’s “standstill” budget really means:

House Republicans are promoting a “standstill” budget that will fund state government at about 97.4 percent of what revenue estimates show the state will receive in tax dollars and other flexible funding, but not to include federal funds or other dedicated money. The 97.4 percent amounts to about $243 million (in cuts), Henry said.


On taxes and economic growth

While Louisiana legislators try doing the same thing they’ve always done while expecting different results, Times-Picayune columnist Bob Mann looks around the country and notes that tax cuts and “small government” are far from the magic elixir that proponents claim. It turns out states that raise sufficient revenue to invest in education and workforce training tend to have the strongest economies.

The evidence is clear: States with the highest taxes do not have high unemployment. Examine, however, what those high-tax states spend on education, particularly higher education, and you will find an interesting correlation. … The 10 states with the highest percentage of residents with college degrees all have lower jobless rates than Louisiana, often much lower. Seven of those 10 states — Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota and New Jersey — are also among the 10 states with the highest personal income taxes.


Spotlight on the REC

Legislators keep trying to blame everyone but themselves for the state’s chronic budget problems. Their latest target: The Revenue Estimating Conference, the four-member state panel that determines how much the state can spend each year. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard used his Sunday column to explain how and why the panel was created – and how it goes about its work.

Though the precipitous drop in the price of oil certainly contributed to the state’s current economic woes, it’s the rollback in taxes and explosion of tax breaks that has created a crisis situation that legislators fix with temporary measures, said Jim Richardson, the LSU professor who serves as the REC’s independent economist. We really need to find a stable tax structure that has more than one year of life expectancy,” Richardson said. “Everybody wants stability and it seems to be a popular thing except when you start making the hard decisions to get there, then it gets a little tough.”


Food assistance for ex-offenders

Having the world’s leading incarceration rate, which Louisiana does, means that each year thousands of former offenders are released back into our cities and towns. In 2015, for example, more than 6,000 inmates were released after serving time for nonviolent drug offenses – often with few job skills or opportunities. Under current state law, these ex-offenders are ineligible for federal food benefits for the first year after their release. As LBP’s Jeanie Donovan explains in a new blog, a bill that’s part of the governor’s criminal justice reform package aims to change that.

House Bill 177 by Rep. Helena Moreno would eliminate this arbitrary barrier to food assistance, and in doing so, would put the formerly incarcerated on a more stable path to successful reentry. … Withholding food assistance from a person who has paid his or her debt to society does not help anyone. Former offenders are far more likely to report food insecurity than the general population, and food insecurity, in turn, is tied to higher levels of illegal activity. Therefore, allowing all former offenders to access SNAP is one easy way to reduce recidivism.


Number of the Day

11.28 – Infant mortality rate, per 1,000 births, for black babies in Louisiana. The overall state average is 7.63 and the national average is 5.82 (Source: The Advocate)