A showdown budget vote in the Senate

A showdown budget vote in the Senate

Before President Donald Trump and congressional leaders can approve a massive tax cut plan that mainly benefits the wealthy, they first have to push a budget resolution through the Senate. But right now, the vote tally for a resolution that would unlock the fast track process known as reconciliation is not certain.

Number of the Day

325 million - Number of Shetland ponies that could be bought - enough to provide one to each American - for the cost of repealing the federal inheritance tax. (Source: Center for American Progress)

Before President Donald Trump and congressional leaders can approve a massive tax cut plan that mainly benefits the wealthy, they first have to push a budget resolution through the Senate. But right now, the vote tally for a resolution that would unlock the fast track process known as reconciliation is not certain. Bob Bryan reports  in Business Insider:

Reconciliation allows certain bills to pass through the Senate without being subject to a filibuster — benefitting Republicans, who hold just 52 seats in the chamber. While every Republican senator has expressed a desire to pass a tax-reform package, it is no guarantee the Senate budget resolution will make it through. Several GOP senators have expressed concerns about the proposed increase in defense spending and about how the budget could affect the federal deficit.

While the tax cuts outlined by the president would flow mostly to the well off, everyday Americans would likely pay for them through offsetting cuts to critical programs that help struggling families access health coverage and education and provide basic assistance for seniors and people with disabilities. If Congress simply adds the massive costs of the tax cuts to the country’s deficits, then the cuts would occur down the road.

Vox’s Tara Golshan explains the entire process needed to pass a tax package.

 

Bringing criminal justice reform to local level

The Advocate’s editorial board slammed Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator’s comments about criminal justice reform leading to the release of “good” inmates who perform work for his department. In order for reform to take hold at the local level, sheriffs should focus more on re-entry services and get away from viewing the inmates under their care as simply a free workforce.

But keeping inmates because they can handle chores is not in the best interest of taxpayers. The “good” inmates — those who behave and work with dedication and responsibility — are the ones we should be releasing. Louisianians ought to be able to trust our sheriffs on questions of public safety — important decisions like who should be in jail but also who should be set free. But Prator, in a moment of candor, underscored the ways in which sheriffs are compromised because they have become addicted to the money and free labor that flows from Louisiana’s culture of incarceration.

 

Association Health Plans tried and failed at state level

In the 1980’s many states experimented with loosely regulated Association Health Plans, which President Donald Trump wants to expand via executive action. The Brookings Institution’s Mark Hall explains that at the state level many were fraudulent schemes:

More troubling, these earlier association plans had a history of becoming what the Labor Department termed “scam artists” and the Government Accountability Office reported were “bogus entities [that] have exploited employers and individuals seeking affordable coverage.” More than two dozen states reported in 1992 that these early association plans had committed “fraud, embezzlement or other criminal law” violations.

And the lack of regulation led to an unstable, fractured market.

Because less-regulated association health plans compete with fully regulated markets, actuaries and regulators have long warned that association plans create an uneven playing field that can disrupt markets. People who don’t need to cover preexisting conditions or don’t want to pay community rates gravitate to the better deals offered by associations, leaving sicker people in the regulated markets. Naturally, regulated insurance prices increase as a result, sometimes causing a death spiral that crashes the market.

 

LSU’s lazy river

Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Chelsea Brasted highlights a recent article that weighs the merits of a new lazy river at LSU, when other priorities – like the crumbling Middleton Library – remain unfunded. Louisiana cut state support for higher education by 45 percent since 2008, the second largest percentage cut per student in the country.

In a feature for The Chronicle of Higher Education, writer Jack Stripling takes a magnifying glass to the embarrassment of faux riches that is LSU’s new lazy river, part of an $85 million upgrade to the LSU UREC. Of course, the attraction was built within a state that continues to slash higher education funding, host students in an art school building that has made some feel unsafe and wrap plastic sheeting around microfilm in a library basement to protect it from leaks.

 

Number of the Day

325 million – Number of Shetland ponies that could be bought – enough to provide one to each American – for the cost of repealing the federal inheritance tax. (Source: Center for American Progress)