Vice President Mike Pence visits Baton Rouge on Wednesday – his third visit to the Pelican State in the past year. He will speak privately with local business leaders, followed by a small public rally in Port Allen. U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, in a guest column for The Advocate, writes that President Donald Trump’s budget speaks louder than any words Pence could utter in his brief public appearance.
The president and vice president ran on standing up for the people of Louisiana, but they released a budget that goes out of its way to knock Louisianans down. To start with, the budget would cut expected revenue from offshore oil drilling happening off our coast. This is revenue that our state is rightfully owed, and that has already been pledged to coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects. So, this administration is choosing tax cuts for the rich over the physical security of the people of Louisiana. No words Pence could speak would be louder than that.
Josh Bivins and Hunter Blair of the Economic Policy Institute explain how the administration’s budget plan – which The New York Times describes as “dead on arrival” – would actually slow economic growth, negating the purpose of a job rally.
But besides containing cruel cuts and deeply-dodgy economic assumptions, this proposal should also dispel any last remaining hope that fiscal policy under the Trump administration would boost, rather than drag, on growth and jobs. Were this proposal enacted, it would put a large and rapidly growing drag on economic growth going forward. All else equal, job-losses stemming from this budget’s spending cuts would total 177,000 in 2018, 357,000 in 2019, and 1.4 million in 2020. While it gets increasingly hard to estimate precise numbers further into the future, the fiscal drag just increases dramatically after 2020. The economic intuition for why the Trump budget’s cuts would hinder growth is simply that they would reduce growth in economy-wide spending, or aggregate demand. It is always possible that the spending slowdown caused by the Trump budget could be neutralized by spending increases in other parts of the economy.
Pence’s address to Port Allen business leaders will be broadcast at 1:15 p.m. via Facebook live stream.
Making it harder to get TOPS
An estimated 1,800 fewer Louisiana students would be eligible for TOPS scholarships under a bill that narrowly cleared the House on Tuesday. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports, House Bill 117 would raise the minimum required high school grade-point average from 2.5 to 2.75 a change that is expected to save the state up to $7 million per year. Critics said the bill would disproportionately hit low-income and minority students.
[Rep. Kenny] Cox was among a group of lawmakers who argued throughout the debate that the bill would hurt students from low-income families. The House initially voted to direct any savings from [Rep. Franklin] Foil’s bill to the state’s needs-based college scholarship program called Go Grants. However, Foil, who initially agreed to go along with the change, later asked the House to undo it. “I am a deliberative person,” he said of his change of heart. That move won narrow approval. Foil said that, as the bill advances, he will work with Rep. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, and others behind the effort to craft a compromise that addresses needs-based assistance.
Fees to pay for officer pay raises
People on probation on parole in Louisiana could be required to pay an extra $37 per month to cover the cost of their supervision under a bill that is nearing final passage. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports that supporters say the increase is needed to recruit and retain workers who get paid low salaries to watch over ex-offenders once they are released from prison.
“The budget could have come from the House with a pay raise for you,” Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, of New Orleans and chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party, told the officers. “It’s so unfair for the author and others to present it as an either/or” for pay raises for the officers or against law enforcement,” Peterson added. Alexandria Republican Rep. Lance Harris, who is the majority leader in the House and the sponsor of HB302, also got an earful about how he and other House leaders refuse to address the state’s shaky fiscal system but instead push patches by raising fees on people who can’t afford the costs.
The cost should be a burden on the state, but instead is being put on the families of those who are incarcerated. NOLA.com/Times Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue shares who will pay and just how much it is.
Harris said his proposal accounts for the fact that some people released from prison might be poor, sick or unemployed for some other reason and not able to pay the probation fee. Not every person would have to pay the full $100 every month, he told legislators who worried aloud about offenders’ financial debts. HB 302 could raise $927,000 if all people on parole and probation pay the higher fee in full, according to the legislative financial analysis. That number could change, however, if the parole and probation population changes dramatically as a result of Gov. John Bel Edwards‘ criminal justice overhaul. It’s also expected that many people won’t be able to afford the increased cost.
Juvenile life without parole
Louisiana received scrutiny from the U.S. Supreme Court for sentencing too many juveniles to life sentences without parole. Both the House and Senate agree that teen offenders should have the opportunity to overcome early life challenges and receive parole after 30 years; the bill would become a law soon if negotiations on additional amendments are resolved. Rebekah Allen at the Advocate has more on how the bill is changing as it moves through the legislature.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, amended the bill to remove life sentences without parole for juveniles entirely. He said that sentence for juveniles doesn’t comport with the Supreme Court rulings, because it’s impossible to tell at that young of an age whether the child is irredeemable. But Martiny’s amendment was changed in a House committee. The proposed law in its current form will eliminate life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of second-degree murder. But the sentence would remain an option for teens convicted of first degree murder. The bill also attempts to address some 300 inmates who committed crimes before adulthood and are serving life without parole sentences. The bill originally sought to retroactively give those offenders parole eligibility after 30 years of their sentence.
Number of the Day
$190 billion– Proposed budget cut, over 10 years, to the federal SNAP program that provides food assistance to low-income families. The plan would shift costs to states, low-income families, temporarily unemployed adults and the elderly. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)