Leaders blast “appalling” budget

Leaders blast “appalling” budget

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said the budget bill advanced by a House committee this week is a “non-starter” that would devastate critical health and public safety programs.

Number of the Day

$70 million - Proposed cut to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services after counting loss of federal matching dollars. (Source: DCFS via The Advocate)

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said the budget bill advanced by a House committee this week is a “non-starter” that would devastate critical health and public safety programs. Dardenne stressed that the Legislature is abdicating its responsibility by not specifying where cuts should occur. Health Secretary Rebekah Gee noted that there’s no “fluff” that can be removed to account for the $235 million cut her department would receive, while Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Walters made an impassioned plea for lawmakers to reconsider their decisions. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp was there:

“We can’t afford to run the programs when we keep reducing the staff,” she (Secretary Walters) said. She said social workers who transport children to family visits, doctors appointments and other needed services are driving old cars that have logged more than 170,000 miles. On top of that, she said that the budget would eliminate 67 positions in child welfare office, which handles child abuse and neglect cases. “These cuts are draconian and nonsensical,” Walters said. “The lack of compassion in this budget is appalling.”

The Advocate’s Lanny Keller calls it “Robin Hood in reverse.

Robin Hood in reverse, with a budget that doubles down on the cuts to state services made during the eight years of former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Will these cuts stand? The 17-5 vote on the budget bill was in Appropriations, where the committee was stacked with ideological warriors, more anti-government than the House in general. That is only an opening gun, one that will be up for debate in the full House and then go to the Senate, where traditionally the governor has more sway. The 39 senators represent larger districts than the 105 House members, meaning that they are aware of the political dangers of acting in the interests of only their better-off neighborhoods.

 

LBP writes House Ways and Means

In remarks at the Capitol press conference Tuesday, LBP executive director Jan Moller emphasized that the House Appropriations Committee’s proposed cuts come on top of a decade of cuts that hit families struggling to make ends meet the hardest. In a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, Moller stressed that real leadership is needed to fix the state’s broken tax structure and put the state back on a sustainable revenue path.

As you are well aware, Louisiana faces a $440 million shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year. But a much more serious shortfall arises next year, when nearly $1.4 billion of temporary revenue laws expire and create a “fiscal cliff.” If these expiring taxes are not replaced with stable, recurring revenues, it would create unprecedented hardship for Louisiana’s universities, health care providers and others who depend on state resources. In the meantime, the uncertainty created by relying on temporary revenue measures has led to bond rating downgrades and an erosion of Louisiana’s business climate.

Read the entire letter here.

 

DAs nix parts of criminal justice reform

Louisiana Secretary of Corrections Jimmy Leblanc says that “75 percent” of proposed reforms to the state’s criminal justice system are still on track after district attorneys pressured the administration and lawmakers to drop a central piece of reform. Rebekah Allen reports for The Advocate:

LeBlanc said it was unclear on Tuesday what the impact of the compromise bills would be on the projected savings and inmate reductions. But he said they’re within 75 to 85 percent of their goal. As the result of negotiations, a key proposal to create a felony class system was delayed a year at the request of the state prosecutors. The felony class system was the centerpiece of the reform package. It intended to create an A-F classification system to categorize some 600 individual felony statutes, assigning penalty ranges, while strengthening uniformity and transparency in sentencing.

 

AHCA change could weaken employer-sponsored health plans

The American Health Care Act would cut nearly $1 trillion from federal healthcare programs and strip coverage from 24 million Americans. House leaders are trying to woo moderates by throwing $8 billion back into the bill, paltry when compared to the size of the overall cuts. But, a provision in another recent amendment could give lawmakers even more pause as it threatens coverage in employer-sponsored insurance plans. The Brookings Institution’s Matthew Fiedler explains:

In particular, a single state’s decision to weaken or eliminate its essential health benefit standards could weaken or effectively eliminate the ACA’s guarantee of protection against catastrophic costs for people with coverage through large employer plans in every state. The two affected protections are the ACA’s ban on annual and lifetime limits, as well as the ACA’s requirement that insurance plans cap enrollees’ annual out-of-pocket spending. Both of these provisions aim to ensure that seriously ill people can access needed health care services while continuing to meet their other financial needs.

 

Number of the Day

$70 million – Proposed cut to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services after counting loss of federal matching dollars. (Source: DCFS via The Advocate)