The legislative logjam over revenues began to break on Memorial Day, when the House of Representatives advanced a pair of tax bills that would renew about $400 million in expiring revenue to help offset cuts in next year’s budget. The centerpiece was Rep. Lance Harris’ House Bill 27, which renews one-third of the expiring “clean penny” of sales tax and removes some exemptions from the permanent 4-cent base. As the bills move to the Senate, it’s still unclear whether lawmakers will agree to address the full $648 million fiscal “cliff.” The AP’s Melinda Deslatte:
Harris’ sales tax bill got broad, bipartisan backing after a Friday effort to pass the measure fell seven votes short. “It’s a compromise, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Harris, of Alexandria, told his colleagues on a rare Memorial Day debate in the chamber. There was no debate on the bill. Harris introduced it, and the vote was swift. Also winning House passage was a proposal by Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Monroe Democrat, which renews an expiring limitation on an individual income tax break that Louisiana allows for taxes paid to other states. Continuing to scale back the tax break would raise nearly $34 million a year through its 2023 expiration date.
What about the budget?
While tax bills started moving on Memorial Day, another rift emerged over the state budget. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry would normally sponsor the budget bill, but he has refused to file one thus far in the special session. Filling the policy vacuum was Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III, who has filed his own budget bill that will be heard this afternoon in the House Appropriations Committee. Julia O’Donoghue of Nola.com/The TImes-Picayune shares why budget appropriations are especially difficult for the legislature, now.
Henry attempted to have the House override the governor’s budget veto Monday — something that has happened only twice in the modern history of Louisiana — but couldn’t get enough support to do so. He needed 70 votes but got only 52. Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, is trying to get the budget process moving by pushing House Bill 26, an alternative budget bill. … Instead of considering a new budget bill, Henry appears to want to try again to force the Legislature to override the governor’s veto. If that happened, there would still need to be a supplemental budget bill to plug in any extra tax revenue that is raised to avoid budget cuts. Henry hasn’t filed a supplemental budget bill to allow that to be done yet either. And if the veto override doesn’t pass, the Legislature might be forced to meet for a third special session this year, after the current one ends June 4.
The Advocate Editorial Board is tiring of the partisan posturing, and says it’s time for legislators to accept the reality that the budget cannot be responsibly balanced without renewing or replacing some of the expiring revenue.
The wildly differing budget bills passed by House and Senate in the regular session — and appropriately enough vetoed by Edwards — show that state government isn’t going to work without a compromise that gets resources into critical sectors, including aid to colleges and students, or meeting the state’s obligations that draw substantial federal matching funds in health care, food stamps and other programs.
Reality check: The Legislature doesn’t need to start from scratch in building a budget, as Henry implies. Everyone knows the gaps that need to be filled – in Medicaid, TOPS and higher education. The only questions should be how much revenue the Legislature is willing to raise, and what programs should be cut if lawmakers refuse to address the whole fiscal cliff.
Bail reform needed
Nicole was, essentially, jailed because she couldn’t afford her ticket, much less the fees and bail required for her release. As she served her monthlong sentence, she lost her job, missed parental participation at her child’s school and used thousands taxpayer dollars by interacting with the criminal justice system. CEO/President of Foundation for Louisiana, Flozell Daniels Jr., tells Nola.com/The Times-Picayune that heavy consequences for minor infractions is one way that Louisiana taxes the poor in our state.
While Nicole and others are in one of the most dangerous jails in America, the vast majority for nonviolent charges, our communities are bleeding millions of dollars that would otherwise support local businesses and families. In fact, the money bail system extracts more than $6 million from New Orleans families each year, with most of it going to commercial bail bond companies. We’re spending as much in taxpayer dollars to pursue these payments as we get in return — instead of investing in community programs that are actually proven to make our city safer. In short, we’re investing in what works against our people instead of what works for our people.
Jim Crow, north and south
While Jim Crow laws maintained legal segregation in the South for generations, northern communities often had more subtle ways of maintaining racial boundaries. As Andrew W. Kahrl details in The New York Times, the recent incident in a Philadelphia Starbucks restaurant is a reminder of the ways that “quality of life” laws have often been selectively enforced.
As white segregationists in the South were placing “whites only” signs in the windows of restaurants, in the North, more enlightened (or, rather, more savvy) white proprietors and public officials realized that rules restricting public spaces to local residents and the strict but selective enforcement of laws against things like disorderly conduct and loitering could be used to impose racial segregation. Take public beaches. In the South, white officials literally drew color lines in the sands and the waters off shore. In the “racially liberal” Northeast, towns devised elaborate, and ostensibly colorblind, procedures for determining who could access public shores, and what they could bring and do once inside, and then proceeded to enforce them for black and brown people only.
Number of the Day
8.7 – percentage of the 293,317 U.S. veterans in Louisiana that live below the poverty line. Source: Housing Assistance Council Veterans Data Central