Gov. John Bel Edwards met privately with House leaders on Monday in an effort to find agreement on a package of revenue measures that would replace the temporary sales tax that expires on July 1. The governor has set a Jan. 19 deadline for the two sides to strike a deal, but told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that he would be willing to extend that date if talks are progressing. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:
Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said via email that no final agreement was reached during the meeting, but Edwards will provide legislators with additional information about his ideas and legislators agreed to get him more information about theirs by the end of the week. The group plans to meet again next week to continue discussions, Carbo said. “The governor indicated to the speaker that he was not opposed to the budget reform ideas the speaker spoke of in broad terms, and he looked forward to receiving more information on them,” Carbo said. “Gov. Edwards reiterated his willingness to be flexible in crafting the plan, but that House leadership must put something on the table in order to begin those negotiations.”
Cassidy’s newfound clout
Despite a series of stinging defeats in 2017, U.S Sen. Bill Cassidy is not giving up on his plans to replace the traditional Medicaid program with a block-grant scheme that would eventually leave Louisiana with fewer federal dollars to cover low-income citizens. Cassidy told The Advocate’s Bryn Stole that he met recently with Vice President Mike Pence and several Republican senators about making another push to replace the Affordable Care Act. But the odds of success remain low.
Cassidy and his co-authors acknowledged the tricky math to pass any bill through the sharply divided Senate. Republicans can only afford to lose one GOP vote and still pass legislation on a party-line vote. Johnson said the group of GOP senators are tweaking the bill’s formulas, designed to divvy up federal Obamacare health funding into block grants for states, in an effort to bring enough fellow Republicans on board. Opposition from Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona doomed the earlier push. Senate Republican leaders have sounded skeptical notes when asked about the possibility of another Obamacare repeal-and-replace effort in 2018, especially with midterm elections looming in the fall. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told NPR in December that other issues will likely dominate the discussion in 2018.
LBP Executive Director Jan Moller weighed in on the damage that could have been done through the 2017 Cassidy-Graham proposal as a lesson for the future.
Cassidy’s “signature legislative initiative would’ve taken away health coverage from many thousands of his most vulnerable constituents, driven up costs for others and left Louisiana worse off,” Moller said. “Hopefully, Sen. Cassidy will use his considerable intelligence and clout to find a bipartisan solution to the health care problems we still face in this country.”
A temporary reprieve for LaCHIP
A last-minute spending bill approved by Congress just before the Christmas holidays has given Louisiana’s Children’s Health Insurance Program enough funding to continue its operations until March. While federal authorization for the CHIP program – which covers more than 120,000 Louisiana children – expired in October, the state had enough money on hand to last until the end of February. Now that deadline has been extended. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte:
Andrew Tuozzolo, health department chief of staff, said Monday the agency hasn’t finished its calculations of just when federal dollars will run out. But he said the timeline has been pushed back slightly because of the congressional action. “It’s given us a little bit of a reprieve,” Tuozzolo said. “We’re talking about a matter of weeks, not months.” The department had been planning to start sending notifications this month to recipients’ families about the impending loss of federal money and the implications for coverage. But Tuozzolo said those notification letters have been postponed until next month.
Investments for infants
As wage and wealth inequality continue to worsen, economists Darrick Hamilton and William Darrity have developed an innovative solution that they believe could level the economic playing field. They recommend establishing a trust fund for every newborn in the country called “Baby Bonds” that would vary in amount based on family income. The funds could only be used after the child turns 18 for the costs of attending college, purchasing a home, or starting a business. Heather Long with The Washington Post reports on this thought-provoking form of social security for young adults.
“The key ingredient of how successful you will be in America is how wealthy your family is,” Hamilton says. Baby Bonds are one way to change that, he argues. He presented the idea at the American Economic Association conference in Philadelphia this weekend. … Hamilton estimates Baby Bonds would cost $80 billion a year, or about 2 percent of the United States’ $4 trillion in annual federal government spending. If implemented, the first payments wouldn’t go out for 18 years, so there could be time to build up a budget for it.
Number of the Day
6.8 percent- The national unemployment rate for African-Americans, the lowest on record. The white unemployment rate is 3.7 percent. (Source: The Washington Post)