Louisiana’s chronic refusal to address its structural budget deficit is a likely reason medical school graduates are leaving the state at higher rates than just a few years ago. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, last week was when newly minted doctors found out where they will “match” with post-graduate residency programs. Only 46 percent of LSU’s medical school in New Orleans will stay in Louisiana – down from 64 percent just six years ago.
“The anxiety our students feel over budget cuts, either proposed or imposed, to higher education and health care is continuing to erode their confidence in Louisiana,” Larry Hollier, chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans, said in a statement. “Our graduates are in great demand by programs in other states, and the constant uncertainty is driving them out of Louisiana in growing numbers,” he said. The state’s financial troubles have forced cuts on the schools in previous years over the last decade, and again, higher education and the safety-net health hospitals and clinics in which medical students train are at risk of reductions in the budget year that begins July 1.
Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Maria Clark notes that Louisiana’s financial shortfall could prompt the operators of the new University Medical Center to walk away from their state contract.
If this happens, the hospital would revert to state control. School leaders say that the move would have instant ramifications for their residency programs at UMC and create long-term consequences for Louisiana’s healthcare industry. “Depending on what happens to the hospital it would be extraordinarily difficult for the schools,” said Dr. Lee Hamm, the Dean of Tulane’s School of Medicine. “We would have to find other training vehicles for residents in the city if it happens. Would it be extremely problematic for the resident? Yes.”
Rich dad, poor dad
A groundbreaking new study finds that black boys raised in wealthy families are much less likely than their white counterparts to be wealthy as adults. Conversely, white boys who grow up poor are more likely to end up in the middle class or above than black boys. But as the New York Times’ Upshot blog explains, the same findings don’t hold true for girls.
The study, based on anonymous earnings and demographic data for virtually all Americans now in their late 30s, debunks a number of other widely held hypotheses about income inequality. Gaps persisted even when black and white boys grew up in families with the same income, similar family structures, similar education levels and even similar levels of accumulated wealth. The disparities that remain also can’t be explained by differences in cognitive ability, an argument made by people who cite racial gaps in test scores that appear for both black boys and girls. If such inherent differences existed by race, “you’ve got to explain to me why these putative ability differences aren’t handicapping women,” said David Grusky, a Stanford sociologist who has reviewed the research.
A key variable, the study found, is the presence of fathers – not just at home but in the surrounding neighborhood.
Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not. “That is a pathbreaking finding,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist whose books have chronicled the economic struggles of black men. “They’re not talking about the direct effects of a boy’s own parents’ marital status. They’re talking about the presence of fathers in a given census tract.” Other fathers in the community can provide boys with role models and mentors, researchers say, and their presence may indicate other neighborhood factors that benefit families, like lower incarceration rates and better job opportunities.
The whole thing is worth your time.
Sunshine on tax breaks
Business lobbyists and conservative think tanks are lined up behind the “Louisiana Checkbook,” a proposed new website that would promote government transparency by tracking spending across state government in a user-friendly format. But a partisan split has emerged at the Capitol on whether the transparency should extend to tax breaks, credits and exemptions given to corporations. While the aggregate value of various tax breaks is already tallied in the Department of Revenue’s Tax Exemption Budget, there is no way to find out what specific companies receive from the state. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports that some lawmakers are hoping to change that.
Current proposals would include and centralize information already available through the state’s public record laws. Excluded will be the names of companies that receive tax breaks and just how much each receives annually in taxpayer largesse. “We’re talking about $7 billion in exemptions and credits, many of which are not disclosable under the law and those that are (made public) at the initial announcement are not charted afterwards,” said state Rep. Robert Johnson. The Marksville Democrat is leading an effort to try to amend the bills to extend transparency to tax breaks, at least indicated in ranges like those used on personal financial disclosures. For instance, Johnson reports on his Board of Ethics Personal Financial Disclosure that property he owns in Caldwell Parish is valued between $5,000 and $24,999, while his residence in Avoyelles Parish is worth “more than $100,000.”
Beware of a constitutional rewrite
Momentum appears to be building at the Capitol for a wholesale revision of Louisiana’s constitution, which was drafted in 1974 and has been amended more than 100 times since then. For supporters of the idea, it’s become a handy tool for diverting attention from the state’s structural budget problems without actually suggesting a remedy. The Advocate’s editorial board notes that it’s unrealistic to expect that a new constitution will solve the state’s budget problems.
Tons of questions remain to be answered, including how delegates to a new convention would be elected, whether — as in 1973 — a number of experts could be appointed as delegates, and what the scope of the discussions would be. There’s also the matter of timing. Proposals tend to favor a 2020 convention, after the 2019 elections, when legislators and the governor are up for re-election. Gov. John Bel Edwards said he is open to the idea of a convention. The surviving delegates to CC73, as it was known, tend to question, not just out of pride of authorship, whether a new convention to rewrite the constitution would succeed. “It would be a disaster,” said Tony Guarisco, 79, a former state senator who gathered with other former delegates in November. “I don’t think with the divisiveness in today’s political atmosphere that it would have success.”
Number of the Day
$53.3 million – Annual payments Louisiana will receive from BP over the next 15 years for economic damages associated with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Legislation filed for the current session would allow the money to be spent on general operations instead of squirreled away in special funds (Source: Associated Press)