Now that Gov. John Bel Edwards has presented both his executive budget and plan for replacing most of the nearly $1 billion in expiring revenue, it’s time for the Legislature to get to work on their own tax and spending plans. Unfortunately, some prominent Louisiana politicos don’t seem to understand the constitutional duties of the Legislature and the leading role legislators must play in crafting the annual budget. The New Orleans Gambit’s editorial board calls them out:
Governors propose budgets and revenue measures; legislatures must enact them. Some leading citizens likewise need to learn that lesson. Stephen Waguespack, head of the powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (and, as Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff, one of the architects of Louisiana’s “structural deficit”) said in a recent radio interview that part-time lawmakers can’t be expected to come up with their own budget. That’s ridiculous — and disingenuous. Lawmakers certainly don’t have to like Edwards’ proposals, but finger-pointing and blame-dodging are not among their duties — and they do have a constitutional and moral duty to adopt a budget that serves the needs of Louisiana’s citizens and is properly funded. They should get to it.
Some legislators are complaining that the Governor’s proposal for raising revenue did not include enough detail and wasn’t complete when presented to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget on Monday. Julia O’Donoghue with Nola.com/The Times-Picayune notes that the Edwards administration has put forth far more of a plan than those who are making the complaints:
If Edwards’ plan is considered incomplete, the Republicans who control the Legislature have offered even less publicly. Ideas for dealing with the shortfall have been casually discussed, but no plan or list of proposals has been released publicly yet. Edwards has continuously complained that the Republicans are vague — at best — on budget shortfall matters. “I have yet to receive any plan or component part of a plan from anybody in the Legislature,” he told lawmakers Monday. “… I can’t negotiate against myself.”
Meanwhile, advocates expressed dismay at the deep cuts to health care included in Gov. Edwards executive budget. Those cuts, however, are entirely avoidable if the legislature gets to work on filling the budget hole left by the expiring revenue. Ryan Noonan and Mary McGroue with the LSU Manship School News Service:
“These cuts are completely avoidable,” said Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, a non-profit organization that monitors and reports on state government spending. “We are in this situation because more than $1.1 billion in tax revenue will expire on July 1. All the legislature needs to do is agree on a package of revenue measures to replace those taxes.” Legislators remain optimistic that alternative measures can be employed to find a resolution to the state’s fiscal crisis before the temporary sales tax increase expires in July. “This is not the budget anybody wants,” said Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge. “Nobody wants to cut anything.”
Extreme poverty in America
When we think of places where millions of people are living in extreme poverty, we tend to think of the developing nations to which the United States and other rich countries send international aid dollars. But the World Bank recently began including rich, developed countries in its estimates of the number of people living in extreme or “absolute” poverty (defined as living on less than $1.90 per day). An Oxford economist took the analysis a step further to adjust the absolute poverty measure to account for higher costs of living in rich countries. The results suggest that we should redirect some of our philanthropic and aid funding to our own backyards. Angus Deaton writes for the New York Times:
When we compare absolute poverty in the United States with absolute poverty in India, or other poor countries, we should be using $4 in the United States and $1.90 in India. Once we do this, there are 5.3 million Americans who are absolutely poor by global standards. … This evidence supports on-the-ground observation in the United States. Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer have documented the daily horrors of life for the several million people in the United States who actually do live on $2 a day, in both urban and rural America. Matthew Desmond’s ethnography of Milwaukee explores the nightmare of finding urban shelter among the American poor. It is hard to imagine poverty that is worse than this, anywhere in the world.
Work requirements: will they help or hurt families?
Proposals to make work a condition of receiving food assistance or health insurance are popping up in a handful of states, encouraged by letters and guidance from the Trump administration. But experts are skeptical that implementing work requirements alone are actually going to help families move out of poverty and eliminate their need for assistance. Jen Fifield with The Pew Charitable Trusts:
While many state officials want fewer people to need Medicaid, the challenge is ensuring that the changes really help people get back to work, said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “Are you cutting off your nose and saying, ‘Hey, my face weighs less. That’s a good thing,’ ” Salo said. “Or are you saying, ‘Hey, we are building a culture of volunteering, of working, and leading people to springboard out of poverty and into a situation where they can get health coverage elsewhere.’” Salo expects legal challenges to the work requirements, and while more states may submit waiver requests, many may wait to see how those cases play out.
Proposals to cut families off programs that provide food or health benefits based on their employment status lack compassion and humility, argues Bob Mann in a tongue-in-cheek column for Nola.com/The Times Picayune:
Let them get sick or injured and, if they survive, they’ll better understand the value of work. After the heart disease passes, they will apply the lessons they’ve learned as they rush out to find a job. If the worst happens, at least their orphaned children will have learned a valuable lesson: The only way society should treat you as a human being worthy of life is if you are employed. And I agree with Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge: If the poor won’t work, they don’t deserve food assistance. Going hungry for a few weeks will not only encourage mom and dad to get up and work; the malnutrition and hunger pains should also teach the kids a lesson they won’t forget. It’s just like Jesus said when he fed the hungry multitude: “Those with a job get a fish and a loaf.”
Number of the Day
74 – Percentage of Americans who support giving legal status to immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, while 60 percent of Americans oppose building a border wall. (Source: Pew Research Center)