Louisiana’s budget picture got a little brighter on Thursday, when a state forecasting panel recognized $387 million in new tax revenues for lawmakers to spend over the next 18 months. The latest forecast from the Revenue Estimating Conference includes $153 million more in the current fiscal year and an additional $234 million in fiscal year 2019. Even with the bump in revenue, legislators are still left with a significant budget hole to fill during a yet-to-be-scheduled special session. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte was there:
The improvements were largely driven by better-than-expected sales tax collections, and also by slight upticks to corporate and severance tax expectations. That’s not enough to dig Louisiana out of the hole, known in the state Capitol as the “fiscal cliff,” that hits when the new financial year begins July 1, as temporary sales taxes enacted by lawmakers expire. Even with Thursday’s revisions, general state tax collections are expected to shrink by $994 million, from nearly $9.6 billion this year to $8.6 billion next year. And the economists warned that the state’s jobs picture remains shaky, as the oil and gas industry remains stagnant. “The fact that we’re adding some money into the forecast today is not waving the flag that, ‘Hey, party time is back,'” said Greg Albrecht, the Legislature’s chief economist.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to unveil his proposals for addressing the fiscal cliff on Monday.
Managed care contracts (finally) renewed
The dumbest “crisis” in recent memory was resolved Thursday when a legislative committee agreed to renew the state’s contracts with five managed-care companies that oversee the health care for nearly 1 in 3 Louisianans. Appropriations committee chairman Cameron Henry, who led the charge against the contract renewal, finally agreed to approve with the inclusion of language giving the legislative auditor oversight. Again, Melinda Deslatte with The Associated Press reports:
The extensions will keep in place five companies that manage care for 90 percent of Louisiana Medicaid patients. The current contracts were set to expire Jan. 31. [Governor John Bel] Edwards called Thursday’s action a “good day for the people of Louisiana.” “While it seems to me that the approval process became unnecessarily mired in political gridlock, I am very grateful for the good judgment shown by the committee,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. Senators previously had voted to approve the contracts. If House Republicans hadn’t reversed their opposition, Edwards planned to enact the deals through an emergency process.
Calls for a clean DREAM Act
Overshadowed by priorities like repealing the Affordable Care Act and passing tax reform, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program sits in wait. Without legislative action, the program will expire in March 2018 and the livelihoods of more than 685,000 young people across the nation would be threatened. Louisiana would lose about one third of the $6 million it receives in tax contributions from DACA protected citizens. Misha Hill, Policy Fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, has more.
DACA recipients are hard working young people who are contributing to our communities. A 2017 survey of 2,800 DACA recipients found that 98 percent of respondents are currently employed, compared to only 44 percent before they enrolled in DACA. Because of the work authorization provided by DACA, young immigrants can work and earn more. This translates to more money in local economies and more tax revenue for governments. An updated ITEP analysis of the tax contributions of the 1.3 million DREAMers living in the United States found that those eligible for or enrolled in DACA contribute $1.8 billion annually in state and local taxes.
Pitting health centers against public health funding
House Republicans have released a spending bill that would prevent a government shutdown, but has given health advocates great cause for concern. The bill pays for several important health programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and community health centers, with $6.35 billion in cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The result: Louisiana would lose more than $24 million in funding for public health services between 2019 and 2023. The Trust for America’s Health explains the importance of the fund.
The Prevention Fund supports grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to every state, the District of Columbia, the territories, and nonprofit and tribal organizations throughout the United States. These investments support vaccination programs, infectious disease detection and prevention, and chronic disease prevention.
The continuing resolution also includes Medicaid and Medicare cuts and inadequate disaster relief funds for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, both suffering greatly after the barrage of hurricanes this fall. Edwin Park of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains these problematic provisions in a new blog.
Number of the Day
$2,027,000– Louisiana tax contributions from children of immigrants that would be lost if DACA expires before a DREAM Act is passed. (Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)