Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to issue his call for the third special session of 2018 today – or Monday at the latest. Legislators are being called back to Baton Rouge because they have yet to close the budget shortfall that threatens deep cuts to the Department of Children and Family Services, higher education, TOPS and local sheriffs. Those cuts would take effect on July 1 if lawmakers don’t figure out how to replace some of the revenue that’s set to expire. Jeremy Alford, Sarah Gamard and Mitch Rabalais of LaPolitics Weekly report:
The session is expected to start on June 17 or 18, likely the latter since Father’s Day is Sunday, June 17. It’ll be a short session again, with an even smaller policy call. As for the governor, it’s not yet known how he will open the special session. For the gathering that adjourned earlier this week, Edwards went off campus to another campus, UL-Lafayette, to send a message to voters and lawmakers. Those familiar with what’s to come say the governor is currently exploring his options. The number the Edwards Administration will be working with is $507 million, and the lobbying to hold the line on that revenue figure has already started.
The Advocate reports that House Republicans are asking that the governor’s agenda include ideas that have been rejected, such as calculating the way the state spending cap is calculated.
Richard Carbo, Edwards’ deputy chief of staff, said the speaker has already passed a resolution on the subject matter and that he “never moved” his other related bills this calendar year. The delegation likewise wants to allow the legislative auditor to audit state agency records.
Nola.com/The Times-Picayune columnist Tim Morris provides some historical context to the contentious situation state lawmakers find themselves in now:
The slow-moving crisis actually began with great promise in 2016 when the newly elected Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature came together for a $1.4 billion bipartisan tax package to bail the state out of a $2 billion hole left behind by the feckless policies of Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s two terms. Both sides agreed that the tax increases would be temporary to get the state back on its feet. Democrats no doubt hoped the economy would get significantly better and Republicans expected the government to get significantly smaller. Both have been disappointed.
While the special session will focus on taxes, the real differences between Edwards and the GOP leadership are over how big the budget should be. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges has a lengthy tick-tock of the dramatic final day of the special session that includes this revealing anecdote:
At about 7 p.m., Harris and two other House members went to the Senate president’s office to try to hash out an agreement on a tax plan between the House and Senate. The meeting didn’t go well. Harris said he thought he had at least 70 votes – the two-thirds necessary – to win approval for his measure in the House. State Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, and state Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, said they were hearing from other House members that he was far short. They pressed Harris for specifics on the $100 million of budget cuts that would be required if the Legislature approved the 1/3-cent renewal. Harris, according to Morrell, couldn’t say.
The stakes for the upcoming special session – the seventh since Gov. John Bel Edwards took office – are high for low-income families, as the United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Michael Williamson, Charmaine Caccioppi, and Kim Sport write in a letter to Nola.com/The Times-Picayune:
Louisiana will never attract new business and industry without a well-funded education system, which begins with quality early childhood education that is affordable to all families. Louisiana will never thrive if it continues to lose its newly-educated workforce — our sons, daughters and grandchildren — to better opportunities in other states. Louisiana is known worldwide for its incredible hospitality, but Louisiana will never be respected for the great state we know it to be if we do not take care of and respect our most vulnerable citizens — citizens like ALICE.
Raising the rent on the poor
More than 84,000 low-income Louisiana families rely on federal assistance to rent modest housing at an affordable cost. Many of those families would be subject to rent increases upwards of 25 percent under two federal proposals. Will Fischer of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities breaks down how the plans from the Trump administration and U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross could mean homelessness for seniors, people with disabilities and working poor families with children:
The Trump plan would raise rents by $3.2 billion a year once it’s phased in, while the Ross plan would allow annual increases of as much as $4.9 billion. New CBPP estimates show the impact of the Trump and Ross plans in each state and the 100 largest metropolitan areas. Raising rents on low-income people would force them to divert resources from other basic needs and expose some to eviction and homelessness. Most of those affected would be working-poor families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Both plans also include sharp rent increases for families with little or no income and, as such, would fall most heavily on deeply poor families with children.
The AP’s Juliet Linderman and Larry Fenn examine Housing Secretary Ben Carson’s claim that the administration’s plan offers a “way out of poverty” and encourages self sufficiency by pushing people to find additional jobs and income:
“This proposal to raise rents on low-income people doesn’t magically create well-paying jobs needed to lift people out of poverty,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Instead it just makes it harder for struggling families to get ahead by potentially cutting them off from the very stability that makes it possible for them to find and keep jobs.” The “Make Affordable Housing Work Act,” announced on April 25, would allow housing authorities to impose work requirements, would increase the percentage of income poor tenants are required to pay from 30 percent to 35 percent, and would raise the minimum rent from $50 to $150 per month. The proposal would eliminate deductions, for medical care and child care, and for each child in a home. Currently, a household can deduct from its gross income $480 per child, significantly lowering rent for families.
Justice Department settles ADA lawsuit
The Americans with Disabilities Acts requires public entities to provide programs and services to people with disabilities in the most integrated setting possible. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the Louisiana Department of Health for its over-reliance on institutionalized care for people with serious mental illness, arguing that those many of those people should be receiving home and community-based care. This week, the two parties settled the suit, with LDH agreeing to create a plan that provides for more integrated care. The Greater Baton Rouge Business Report has the story.
Under the agreement announced by the DOJ, the state is required to create and implement a plan that expands community-based services like mobile crisis, case management, assertive community treatment, and supported housing to meet people’s needs in the community. In addition, Louisiana will assess all existing nursing facility residents with mental illness and all new referrals for admission to determine whether they can be served appropriately in the community.
Number of the Day
90,200 – Number of low-income Louisiana children who would be affected by HUD rent increases under Trump Administration’s housing proposal (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)