Budget debate heads to the Senate

Budget debate heads to the Senate

Members of the Senate Finance Committee met Sunday to review the Draconian budget bill approved last week by the House. Some, like Chairman Eric Lafleur of Ville Platte, were horrified by the cuts to health care and graduate medical education.

Number of the Day

66,099 - Number of employees on the state payroll as of December 2017, down from 100,473 in Fiscal Year 2008. Nationwide, the state and local public sector workforce is the smallest it’s been since 1967 as a share of the civilian American civilian workforce.  (Source: Division of Administration and The New York Times)

Members of the Senate Finance Committee met Sunday to review the Draconian budget bill approved last week by the House. Some, like Chairman Eric Lafleur of Ville Platte, were horrified by the cuts to health care and graduate medical education. Others said the Senate needs to pass its own version of the budget with available dollars — perhaps spread differently — before adjourning the regular session. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said the budget bill cannot be fixed without more revenue, and implored committee members to hold off until a special session. Elizabeth Crisp of The Advocate explains:

The most recent special session collapsed without action after House members couldn’t agree on the best path toward raising revenue or the amount of revenue the state would need. Since then, the size of the looming fiscal cliff has been pared back from nearly $1 billion to $648 million. The House Republican Delegation has not taken a caucus position on whether another special session is needed, but several of the chamber’s leaders – including GOP Caucus Chair Lance Harris and House Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry – have expressed individual support for one, though many members are still hesitant to support the proposal to end the regular session early.

The AP’s Melinda Deslatte focuses on the political uncertainty, as there is no guarantee that any revenue measures have the votes needed to pass the House.

In the crosshairs — and anxiously sitting through the waiting game — are hundreds of thousands of people who rely on state aid: students whose college tuition is paid through the TOPS program, nursing home residents, parents of disabled children and the poor who rely on the safety-net network of hospitals. … Just how the Senate will handle this budget is unclear. Senate President John Alario doesn’t like the way the spending plan looks now and supports replacement taxes to fill gaps. The Republican didn’t commit to whether he’ll push to advance the budget during the regular session.

 

Rebate reductions on the docket

State Sen. Jay Luneau isn’t waiting for a special session as the state looks for ways to reduce Louisiana’s revenue shortfall. He is sponsoring legislation that would scale back three lucrative business tax rebates: Quality Jobs, Enterprise Zones and Competitive Salaries. When the legislature passed the temporary one-cent sales tax in 2016, they also made temporary reductions to these rebates. Luneau’s bill would  make those reductions permanent. As Mark Ballard reports for The Advocate, business groups are working behind the scenes to protect their tax breaks.

Louisiana gives away a lot of its possible tax revenue in the form of exemptions, credits and rebates. The state expects to collect $15.6 billion in taxes in 2018, according to the Department of Revenue. But various tax breaks should keep about $7 billion out of the public treasury. … Speaking during a committee hearing attended a phalanx of trade association lobbyists, sitting quietly as the measure was debated, Morrell asked for input from the business community. “We always hear, consistently, this affects so many industries, but they never show up,” Morrell said. Only one person spoke against the measure.

 

Public sector employees struggling nationwide

A government job was once a ticket to the middle class in America. But that’s no longer the case. Public sector employment is at its lowest rate in 50 years, and wages for public employees have dropped, forcing many formerly middle-class families to face the socio-economic realities of living on low-income salaries. A number of shifts explain the trends, including the surge of privatization, the tendency to recover slower from recessions than the private sector and lower taxes. Patricia Cohen and Robert Gebeloff of The New York Times explore the causes and effects:

Justin Fortney, 41, was one of 200 employees laid off by the state health department this year. “It’s getting more difficult to be a public employee — whether that’s a teacher or public health officer — and see yourself as part of a thriving middle class,” he said. Mr. Fortney, who lives with his wife and son in Guthrie, 30 miles north of the capital, was forced to start job hunting. “We always made it work,” said Mr. Fortney, who was employed by the state for 12 years and earned about $50,000 annually. “But if you’re going to choose to be a public servant, you have to have in mind that you will live in a small home and drive a sometimes unreliable vehicle.”

 

A formula for success for unhoused single moms

For a family without housing, it’s not just one or two things that hold them back from climbing out of poverty. As Meredith Kolodner writes for The Washington Post, it’s often a confluence of factors. There’s child care, doctor visits, work and school. Everything has to come together exactly right for an unhoused single mom to get on stable footing. At Family Scholar House in Louisville, that’s exactly what’s happening. Their program offers years of wrap-around support to single moms who need housing so they can finish college degrees. And their model is getting noticed:

Single moms have one of the lowest college graduation rates in the country, which has been linked to poverty that impedes their children’s ability to escape as well. But these formerly homeless women — along with a handful of men — in Louisville have a college graduation rate that exceeds that of their single, childless, more affluent peers. With a creative use of the Section 8 housing program, wall-to-wall counseling and perseverance, this community of women has defied the odds. Now, cities around the country are beginning to explore whether they can do the same thing.

 

Number of the Day:

66,099 – Number of employees on the state payroll as of December 2017, down from 100,473 in Fiscal Year 2008. Nationwide, the state and local public sector workforce is the smallest it’s been since 1967 as a share of the civilian American civilian workforce.  (Source: Division of Administration and The New York Times)