State House Republicans still have no plan for confronting Louisiana’s $700 million-plus “fiscal cliff,” which will force cuts to health care, higher education, public safety and other priorities if not addressed by July 1. But they do have a new “communications consultant,” who has supplied them with new talking points that are being expressed in a series of low-budget videos on social media. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:
One of the key themes that the House Republican messaging efforts has stressed is that the fiscal cliff isn’t as close to $1 billion as Edwards has said in public addresses. While the most recent forecast from the panel that evaluates the state’s economic outlook and sets the amount of money the state can spend in a budget year says the budget will be about $994 million short in the coming year, it doesn’t take into account an estimated $300 million boost the state expects from revenue that will come in as an effect of the federal tax rewrite.
Reality check: The current shortfall (which is different than the “fiscal cliff”) is nearly $1.6 billion. Even with the extra income-tax revenue from the federal tax cuts, Louisiana still faces a serious budget crisis that will require deep cuts unless lawmakers agree to raise revenues.
Hunger on campus
More than 1 in 3 American college students do not get enough food to eat on a regular basis, and lack a secure place to live. That’s according to a first-of-its-kind study released this week by Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Lab. While the problem is hardly new, researchers say it’s getting worse – and is particularly severe for community college students who are more likely to hail from modest economic backgrounds. Caitlin Dewey reports for The Washington Post:
Researchers blame ballooning college costs, inadequate aid packages and growing enrollment among low-income students — as well as some colleges’ unwillingness to admit they have a hunger problem. College hunger is not a new issue, researchers caution. But it appears to be growing worse, and not merely because college is getting more expensive. “Prices have gone up over time,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy at Temple and the lead author of the report. “But the rising price is just a piece. This is a systemic problem.”
The truth about Medicaid fraud
Opponents of Louisiana’s Medicaid program have been trying to make the case that the health insurance program for the state’s poorest and neediest citizens is plagued by fraud, and that this fraud is committed by patients and not health care providers (neither is true). The state’s Medicaid director, Jen Steele, sets the record straight in a letter to The Advocate.
In truth, Louisiana is a national leader in Medicaid fraud prevention. The audit by (The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is also clear evidence that the writer provided an inappropriate assessment of the current program. … If the writer had read to the end of the CMS report, he would have learned that Louisiana’s Medicaid payment error rate is below the national error rate. When errors do occur, Medicaid recoups the improper payment to a health care provider by withholding the amount of that payment in the next billing cycle. Second, improper payments to health care providers are not fraud, and they are not attributable to Medicaid recipients. The Medicaid program makes zero payments directly to recipients. Zero.
The myth of the criminal alien
Polls show that nearly half of Americans believe that immigrants lead to increases in crime. The facts tell a very different story, as Anna Flagg of the Marshall Project reports for The New York Times. Using data from a new, large-scale national study, she notes that violent crime has fallen in most metro areas since 1980, even as immigration has risen dramatically.
In 136 metro areas, almost 70 percent of those studied, the immigrant population increased between 1980 and 2016 while crime stayed stable or fell. The number of areas where crime and immigration both increased was much lower — 54 areas, slightly more than a quarter of the total. The 10 places with the largest increases in immigrants all had lower levels of crime in 2016 than in 1980. And yet the argument that immigrants bring crime into America has driven many of the policies enacted or proposed by the administration so far: restrictions to entry, travel and visas; heightened border enforcement; plans for a wall along the border with Mexico.
Number of the Day
70 cents – Maximum hourly rate paid to state inmates who work at the Capitol and other state facilities. A bill that cleared the House on Monday would expand the type of work that inmates can perform. (Source: Nola.com/The Times-Picayune)