Gov. John Bel Edwards kicked off another special session of the Legislature on Monday – his fifth since taking office in early 2016 – by calling for his Republican critics to join him in a compromise plan to stabilize the state budget by replacing most of the tax revenue that expires on June 30. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue notes that legislators have failed to agree on long-term fixes to the state’s unbalanced tax structure, and she doesn’t seem to think any are forthcoming.
All of the tax and budget proposals they are considering during this special session have been proposed previously and failed to pass. No new tax ideas have come forward or gotten much support since 2016. In fact, the Legislature looks likely to renew much of the same tax package that it passed on a temporary basis in 2016 — if it does anything at all. “I think we are a long way from any consensus,” said state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, who is the Speaker Pro Tempore of the House. “To me, it’s completely up in the air about what is going to happen.”
While many Republicans, particularly in the House, are resistant to taking tax votes, the AP’s Melinda Deslatte notes that none of them have offered a plan to solve the $1 billion “fiscal cliff” with spending cuts alone.
Edwards urged lawmakers who want spending cuts as the only solution to detail them, calling it disrespectful to Louisiana residents to suggest reductions without making “the tough and painful choices.” Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras has said he believes the solution will be a mix of taxes and cuts. “Nobody can credibly cut a billion dollars. That’s not feasible to do that,” said Rep. Tanner Magee, a Houma Republican who said he’ll support some replacement taxes.
The Louisiana Council of Student Body Presidents – made up of campus leaders from around the state – weighed in with a resolution that calls for fully funding TOPS and Go Grant scholarships.
Falling behind on teacher pay
A decade of budget shortfalls has taken a toll on public school teachers in Louisiana, whose pay has fallen behind their peers in other Southern states. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that teacher pay in Louisiana has fallen to $1,705 below the regional average, after finally reaching parity in 2007. Teacher pay started falling behind after lawmakers cut income taxes in 2008 and subsequently stopped approving annual cost-of-living increases as part of the formula that finances public education.
Both teacher unions and other educator groups say the slip in funding teachers carries consequences. Shane Riddle, legislative and political director for the Louisiana Association of Educators, said pay problems make it hard to keep teachers from taking off for Texas and other better-paying border states. “This is a really serious problem, we believe, and very well could be a serious problem if we don’t maintain the salary above or at the Southern average,” Riddle said. He said he expects the current, $1,700 salary gap between the state and region to widen.
Childcare and the gender wage gap
It’s a well-known fact that women in the United States (and elsewhere) earn less money than men – often for doing the same job with similar levels of education. While some of the discrepancy is likely due to discrimination, a new study for the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests another culprit: children. It found that women have salaries comparable to that of men until they start having children, which is when the gap begins. Vox’s Sarah Kliff:
[Author Henrik] Kleven finds a sharp decline in women’s earnings after the birth of their first child — with no comparable salary drop for men. The cumulative effect is huge: Women end up earning 20 percent less than their male counterparts over the course of their career. … Childless women have earnings that are quite similar to men’s salaries, while mothers experience a significant wage gap. Studies conducted in the United States have come to this finding — and Kleven’s new research does too. This chart, for example, shows vastly different earnings trajectories for women who have children versus those who do not become mothers.
A retroactive tax break
The Caddo Parish Commission is considering this week whether to grant an eight-year exemption on property taxes to a local manufacturer for an equipment upgrade that has already been completed and installed. The plan has already been rejected by the local sheriff, but other local authorities have yet to weigh in. A pair of local faith leaders, the Rev. Ron Henson and The Rev. Theron Jackson, write in The Shreveport Times that approving the tax break would set a bad precedent.
According to Greg Leroy of Good Jobs First, a nationally recognized think tank, Louisiana is the only state that gives tax exemptions for work that has been completed. We applaud Sheriff Steve Prater for his historic decision denying Inferno’s application, and hope that other taxing bodies will follow his lead. We want to make clear that we are neith anti-business, nor are we opposed to industrial tax exemptions outright. We understand their value as a tool of economic development. However, most exemptions granted in Caddo Parish did not go to new companies locating here.
Number of the Day
$49,244 – Average teacher pay in Louisiana, compared to $50,949 for the Southern region and $58,064 nationally (Source: The Advocate)