The House Appropriations Committee put its stamp on the state budget on Monday, and the message was clear: College undergraduate students matter more than low-income Louisianans who need health coverage. The committee had $346 million in new revenue to apply to nearly $1 billion in proposed budget cuts, and agreed, along party lines, to appropriate more than two-thirds ($246 million) of the additional funding to the TOPS scholarship program and need-based Go Grants. That left little money to restore health care funding, which leaves the future of the state’s public-private “safety net” hospitals in doubt as the budget bill moves to the floor for more debate. Elizabeth Crisp of The Advocate reports:
“In rushing to pass amendments out, the House Appropriations Committee proved what we’ve been saying all along – there simply isn’t a way to fashion a budget that adequately funds our state’s pressing needs,” (Gov. John Bel) Edwards said in a statement. “TOPS is absolutely a priority and should be fully funded, but so should higher education institutions, health care for our seniors and those with disabilities, funding for medical schools in Shreveport and New Orleans, and our partner hospitals. Now we can see that it’s not possible to do that without replacing more of the revenue that is expiring.”
With some of its member hospitals facing potential closure, the Louisiana Hospital Association is calling on citizens to reach out to members of the Legislature to ask them to protect critical health care services and jobs. HB 1 will be debated on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Some perspective on Tax Day
This Tax Day, analysts are continuing to explore the effects of the massive federal tax cuts passed by Congress in December. Researcher Michael Leachman found that in all but three states in the country, including Louisiana, the top 1 percent of households are receiving a bigger share of their state’s tax cut dollars than the entire bottom 60 percent combined. The federal tax law impacts our communities beyond just each family’s tax burden by effectively removing 13 million people from health coverage and dramatically growing the deficit:
In addition to heavily benefitting large corporations and wealthy households, the new tax law will lead millions of Americans to lose health coverage due to its repeal of the individual mandate — the requirement that most people have health coverage or pay a penalty. The new law will also lead to larger federal deficits — about $1.5 trillion over ten years — which congressional leaders may use to justify proposals for spending cuts to public services and assistance programs on which millions of families rely. These cuts would likely squeeze state budgets across the country, at a time when many of those states are already struggling to meet residents’ and businesses’ needs.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy also put together a handy chart book that includes the top 10 things you should know on Tax Day.
The case for inclusionary zoning
A House committee that covers municipal issues will debate legislation this week that ends mandatory inclusionary zoning. Senate Bill 462, by Sen. Danny Martiny, removes local government authority to require that new developments include units for low-income families. As a trade-off, Martiny’s bill allows local governments to offer incentives for inclusionary zoning. The bill is opposed by the housing advocacy community in New Orleans, who argue that there is a crisis-level shortage of affordable housing for low-income residents. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune printed a letter to the editor on the topic by Angela O’Byrne, president of Perez APC architecture firm.
Without mandatory inclusionary zoning, we will not address economic segregation by creating housing policies that help ensure people with lower incomes still have quality housing choices. Without mandatory inclusionary zoning, we will not reach our goal of sustained affordability by preventing affordable units from coming offline now and in the coming years. Without mandatory inclusionary zoning, we will undoubtedly push out our affordable housing developers who are already on the verge of demise due to severe cuts in federal funding.If history has taught us anything, it’s that the market cannot and will not correct itself.
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center is leading the advocacy effort to protect a city’s ability to implement inclusionary zoning policies – visit their action center here.
Louisianans support criminal justice reform, Medicaid expansion
While the Legislature debates whether to roll back last year’s landmark criminal justice reforms, a new survey shows the changes have broad public support. The Louisiana Survey also found widespread support for the expansion of Medicaid, which is popular with 69 percent of the public (criminal justice reforms garner 61 percent support). Elizabeth Crisp of The Advocate has the story:
The Louisiana Survey’s findings on attitudes toward Medicaid come on the heels of a new report released this week that showed the state’s expansion of Medicaid has been an economic boon for the state, in addition to providing health care coverage to thousands of people. The report, commissioned by the Louisiana Department of Health and conducted by economist Jim Richardson and LSU’s Public Administration Institute, found that the $1.85 billion infusion of federal funds tied to expansion has directly helped create or retain nearly 19,200 jobs and spur nearly $3.6 billion in economic activity across the state.
Click here for the full LSU report on the economic impacts of Medicaid expansion in Louisiana.
Number of the Day
$1.6 billion – The budget cuts to health care, including loss of federal funding, in HB 1 as amended in House Appropriations. (Source: The Advocate)