Governor optimistic about state’s future

Governor optimistic about state’s future

Gov. John Bel Edwards paid a visit to The Advocate’s editorial board last week, and said he remains optimistic about Louisiana’s trajectory despite the Legislature’s failure to address the state’s chronic structural budget shortfalls.

Number of the Day

40.1 - Amount of federal aid Louisiana receives as a percentage of state general revenue. (Source: Tax Foundation)

Gov. John Bel Edwards paid a visit to The Advocate’s editorial board last week, and said he remains optimistic about Louisiana’s trajectory despite the Legislature’s failure to address the state’s chronic structural budget shortfalls. Edwards cites lower unemployment, wage growth and the relocation of a major technology company in New Orleans as signs that Louisiana is moving toward an “era of prosperity.” But state government needs to do its part:  

The budget crisis since January 2016 has been a cause of frustration to the governor and vexation to state agencies and institutions, including colleges. With proper funding, education can move the state forward. Instead, we see an endless wrangle at the State Capitol seemingly focused on partisanship more than progress. So many good things are happening that even a cobbled-together compromise on the budget — and that may be the best we can hope for at this date — might not derail Louisiana’s current momentum. But we’d like to see the capitol more in sync with the state this spring, as the 2018 Legislature gathers.

Columnist James Gill agrees that action is needed from the legislature and explains how a competent government would have already solved the fiscal cliff.

A competent government would have agreed on a budget, in principle, at least, long before now. GOP legislators, of course, say it’s Edwards’s fault that we haven’t, even while obstructing him at every turn. Edwards has come up with some proposals to raise the revenues we need, and they have not. Voters will not regard partisan sniping as an adequate substitute for a grown-up debate about public policy.

 

State should build up reserves

Many states – including Louisiana – expect to see a change in revenue as a result of the recently passed federal tax bill. However, Michael Leachman with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities  suggests, among other things, that states should take this news with a grain of salt and build reserves to prepare for potential cuts in federal support. It would be prudent for lawmakers in the Louisiana to heed Leachman’s advice, given that the Pelican State receives the second most federal aid in the country.

States would be wise to build their reserves rather than spend revenue boosts from the federal changes on tax cuts or major spending increases (without raising additional revenue, as discussed below). President Trump and Republican congressional leaders have expressed their interest in substantially cutting Medicaid and various other forms of federal support for states and localities. The new tax law, by substantially increasing the federal debt, may add to pressure for such cuts in the next few years. Further, a recession will inevitably occur at some point in the coming years; the current expansion is already the second longest in American history.

 

First legal challenge to work requirements filed in Kentucky

Kentucky will be the first state to implement the Trump administration’s plan to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients, despite reports that show most Medicaid recipients are already working, in school, or seeking work and that such requirements may actually cause people who are already working to lose coverage by imposing onerous administrative paperwork. In response to this unnecessary and ill-advised policy, 15 Kentuckians who receive health insurance through Medicaid have sued the federal government, in what is the first legal challenge of a Medicaid waiver granted by the Trump administration. The AP’s Adam Beam has the story.

State officials expect the new rules will cause 95,000 people to lose their Medicaid coverage for a variety of reasons over the next five years. And in an unusual pre-emptive move, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has signed an executive order that would repeal the state’s expanded Medicaid program if any part of the new rules is struck down in court. If that happens, it would end health coverage for more than 400,000 people. “We will not be intimidated. We will defend the rights of individuals to enroll in Kentucky’s Medicaid program,” said Samuel Brooke, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the lawsuit along with the National Health Law Program and the Kentucky Equal Justice Center

Kentucky is looking at levying health or financial literacy tests for individuals who will seek to regain their health coverage after the new work requirements are enforced. However, The New York Times’ Austin Frakt explains why these tests may be counterproductive and how they invoke a dark chapter in our nation’s history.

For one thing, many Americans, not just those who seek Medicaid, struggle with  health and financial literacy. And to some, literacy quizzes — however well intentioned — evoke the tests used to impede voting registration of black Americans in the Jim Crow South.“Requiring people to pass a health literacy course to get care — care for conditions that might prevent them from passing — is just expensive, punitive and cruel,” said Atul Gawande, a surgeon and a health care researcher with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  “It serves no health benefit whatsoever. You have to be concerned about requirements like literacy tests, which states have a bad history of applying selectively and arbitrarily.”  

 

Number of the Day

40.1 – Amount of federal aid Louisiana receives as a percentage of state general revenue. (Source: Tax Foundation)