Nearly 1 in 4 Louisiana children live in a household that doesn’t have enough food to eat throughout the month. This high rate of food insecurity leads to poorer classroom performance and behavior problems at school. While the majority of children who suffer from food inequality qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, 28 percent do not. As the LBP’s Jeanie Donovan explains in her new blog, legislation sponsored by Rep. Pat Smith and Sen. Blade Morrish aims to stop the shameful practice of stigmatizing or taking punitive measures against children who cannot afford or owe money for school meals.
HB 284 and SB 245 are critical to ensuring that children who cannot pay are treated with compassion in the school cafeteria, and are not handed a cold cheese sandwich or denied a meal altogether. Families that are struggling to pay for school meals may also have difficulty affording enough food at home, so school may be some childrens’ only opportunity to eat a full, nutritious meal on a given day. This legislation would ensure that all Louisiana schools are part of the solution to child hunger, rather than part of the problem.
ITEP debate continues
The debate over corporate property tax breaks continued on Monday, as an East Baton Rouge Parish committee wrangled over new guidelines that will determine when a company qualifies for the Industrial Tax Exemption Program. Until recently, Louisiana manufacturers received a 10-year break on property taxes. But Gov. John Bel Edwards reigned in the costly program in 2016 by reducing the breaks to a maximum of eight years and required that the tax exemptions be tied to job creation or retention, and gave local authorities a say in the matter. Up for debate is how much capital investment and job creation should be required and if tax exemptions should be approved after a project has been completed or depreciates in taxable value. The Advocate’s Andrea Gallo reports.
The Advocate previously reported that manufacturing giants have enjoyed property tax breaks while losing jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Louisiana’s manufacturing jobs dropped by more than 21 percent between 2001 and 2016. Yet at the same time, companies enjoyed the tax abatements that cost more than $1 billion annually, with no requirement to create jobs. “These companies should pay school taxes like the rest of us, like the small businesses, like the auto dealers, like everyone except manufacturing interests,” said Kathy Wascom, who spoke at the committee meeting.
Corrections secretary sound alarms on budget cuts
Louisiana sheriffs are set to receive an estimated $156 million for housing state inmates in the current budget year. However, only $117 million is included for housing inmates in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ budget proposal. This sharp reduction is a result of the expiration of temporary tax revenue. Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc spoke to the House Appropriations Committee on Monday to outline what these drastic cuts would mean.
With the cut proposed, LeBlanc said sheriffs likely would refuse to take many of the 16,000 inmates they currently house, forcing them back into state prisons, which he said don’t have the place to keep them. He said the prisons would have to put prisoners on mattresses on the floor, which could threaten public safety and could put Louisiana in violation of federal guidelines for housing prisoners. “We don’t have any place to put them,” LeBlanc said. “That is just a disaster waiting to happen if we do that.”
Another government shutdown looms
Lawmakers in Washington continue to struggle to finalize a $1.3 trillion spending bill needed to keep the government running. Key roadblocks have emerged as a Friday deadline looms in order to avoid another government shutdown. With many conservatives expected to oppose the massive spending bill, Republicans are looking to Democrats for help in getting it passed. The Washington Post’s Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis have the story.
On another front, it was looking unlikely that a deal could be made on immigration. The White House had been exploring trading border-wall funding for a temporary extension of protections for those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program … On the health-care issue, Collins and Alexander left an hour-long meeting with McConnell earlier Monday blaming Democrats’ objections over abortion restriction for the impasse. Collins, one of the few Republican Senators who support abortion rights, said she was surprised by the opposition. “I really don’t understand why there are some who are hung up on that issue, and I say that as someone who has a very good record on choice issues from the perspective of the pro-choice groups,” she said.
Number of the Day
261,000 – Number of children in Louisiana whose parents are, at times, struggling to figure out how to pay for their families’ next meal. (Source: Feeding America)