Conservative critics who want to address Louisiana’s $1.5 billion fiscal “cliff” with budget cuts instead of tax reform have an obligation to detail where those cuts should occur, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday to several hundred citizen activists convened by Together Louisiana. A total of $1.38 billion in tax revenue will fall of the books in July, with the largest source of expiring revenue being the temporary one-cent sales tax, which raises about $880 million per year. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the story.
“If they insist on allowing the revenue to fall off the table, make them tell you with specificity the cuts that they propose. Because that has never happened,” the governor said. Edwards didn’t name names. But his words were targeted squarely at House Republicans who have stymied previous tax packages recommended by the governor and others to offset the mid-2018 tax expiration. … “I can respect people who say, ‘You know what? I’m just not voting for that revenue.’ But only if they turn right back and say, ‘And this is what I would cut,’” Edwards told the crowd assembled in a local Baptist church. “Saying no to everything, but not having your own proposal to make, is part of the problem. It is not part of the solution.”
The governor also expressed support for more transparency in the Industrial Tax Exemption Program. Changes ordered by Edwards last year give local government broad authority over whether to grant property tax breaks sought by corporations. But there was ambiguity as to when companies were required to make their tax break requests public. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard explains.
The intent of the board always had been to make the ITEP applications publicly available on a state website, [Robert] Adley said, adding that Edwards’s statements cleared up the confusion. Business officials interpreted the rules to mean upon application and not during the time when company officials were negotiating with local taxing authorities about if they would be open to granting such exemptions. Broderick Bagert of Together Louisiana said Edwards’ statement means disclosure when the companies approach local entities about a resolution offering the tax incentives. “That means at the beginning of the process,” Bagert said.
Senate unveils its tax cut plan
Senate Republicans outlined their own list of tax cuts primarily for the richest Americans on Thursday, releasing a plan with a few differences from the plan that is headed to the House floor after passing in the Ways and Means committee. Despite the changes, one key feature remains: the benefits are tilted to those who need them least. Just like the House bill, it would increase federal deficits and provide enormous tax cuts to high-income households and corporations. CNN’s Lauren Fox outlines the Senate plan.
The Senate tax bill includes more individual tax brackets than the House bill (seven instead of four) as well as fully repeals the state and local tax deduction, which has become a must-save item for moderate Republicans in the House. The House bill repealed the deduction for state and local income and sales taxes, but preserved the property tax deduction up to $10,000 to assuage concerns from New York and New Jersey Republicans. But the differences don’t end there. While the House bill eventually repealed the estate tax in its entirety, the Senate bill won’t repeal the tax, but instead will double the exemption meaning fewer families will pay it. The Senate bill also maintains a provision to allow individuals to write off medical expenses that exceed a certain amount of their income, something the House bill scrapped entirely …That plan also highlighted that while the Senate bill would reduce the corporate tax rate to 20%, the Senate will delay the implementation of the lower rate until after December 2018.
Public opinion shifts on health care
Tuesday’s election results in Maine and Virginia could be a signal that the politics of health care have moved in a more progressive direction. Maine voters backed a ballot measure to expand Medicaid, while Virginia exit polls found that health care was prominent in the minds of voters who elected Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie. Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times explains:
“There has been a major change here,” said Robert Blendon, an expert on public opinion about healthcare at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “Democrats for years wouldn’t talk about healthcare. … Now, the implication is that if you are a Democrat running in 2018, you can talk about protecting healthcare for millions of Americans.” That [ACA repeal effort], in turn, has helped shift the healthcare debate nationally. A Pew Research Center poll over the summer found that 60% of Americans believe it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans have health coverage — the highest level in nearly a decade.
The election results in Maine and Virginia have galvanized efforts to expand Medicaid in other states, as The New York Times’ Abby Goodnough and Margot Sanger-Katz explain:
Groups in Idaho and Utah are already working through the process of getting Medicaid expansion initiatives on next year’s ballots, hoping to follow Maine’s path after failing through the legislative route. And the outlook for legislative approval has brightened in Virginia after Democrats picked up at least 15 seats in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and could potentially control the chamber once all the votes are counted. Advocacy groups are also hoping the decisive victory in Maine, and exit polls suggesting health care was the top issue in Virginia, will add momentum to efforts in Kansas and North Carolina.
SNAP helps veterans returning home
Almost 1.5 million veterans nationwide, including 23,000 in Louisiana, live in households that use SNAP (formerly food stamps), according to a new report. After leaving active duty, some, especially younger veterans, struggle to find good-paying jobs because they have little work experience beyond their military service. The report shows that in every state, this anti-hunger program allows thousands of veterans to put food on the table and provide for their families. Lexin Cai with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains.
Young recent veterans have higher unemployment rates and lower labor force participation rates than similar civilians, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report. The unemployment rate for male veterans ages 22-24 who were neither in school nor functionally disabled was about 2 percentage points higher than that of comparable civilians over the 2008-2015 period, on average, and their labor force participation rate was 1.1 percentage points lower. Similarly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that the unemployment rate for veterans ages 25-34 was higher than that of civilians in the same age group in 2016. Households with a veteran who has a disability that prevents him or her from working are about twice as likely to lack access to adequate food as households that do not include someone with a disability.
Editor’s note: The Daily Dime is going on a two-week hiatus so LBP’s hard-working staff can enjoy some professional development and celebrate Thanksgiving. We’ll be back on Nov. 27.
Number of the Day
601,462 – Number of people who signed up for health insurance through the ACA’s individual marketplace during the first four days of enrollment, outpacing sign-ups from last year. (Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)