Louisiana legislators each receive $164 for every day they are in session. The average recipient of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits gets $9 a day to put food on the table – benefits that will disappear in early 2019 if the Legislature refuses to raise the revenue needed to fund its budget priorities. As legislators do battle over fractions of a penny of sales tax, the Nola.com/Times-Picayune editorial board weighs in with a scathing editorial urging lawmakers to fully fund the budget:
The state doesn’t pay for SNAP benefits — that $1.4 billion comes entirely from the federal government. But Louisiana has to pay a share of the administrative costs — an estimated $67.5 million in the coming year, according to Louisiana Budget Project. The budget as passed leaves the Department of Children and Family Services short by $34.7 million, which is almost one-fourth of the agency’s funding. If lawmakers don’t provide more money, agency Secretary Marketa Walters said she would only be able to operate SNAP through Dec. 31. She would have to shut down SNAP, she said, to avoid cuts to investigations into child abuse and neglect and oversight of foster care.
Racial equity drives growth
A new report from W. K. Kellogg Foundation, “The Business Case for Racial Equity: A Strategy for Growth,” shows a clear connection between racial equity and heightened economic output. The study looked at Mississippi and New Orleans, showing the drivers of racial and economic inequities which could be corrected in order to provide a massive boost to the local economy. By 2050, they predict that intentional work toward racial equity would increase economic output in metro New Orleans by an estimated $43 billion. Read more or check out the studies here:
The studies offer promising strategies and real-life examples for both locations on how to advance racial equity in businesses, government and communities. For instance, the New Orleans study cites a program that aligns education with job requirements. JPMorgan Chase and Bloomberg Philanthropies combined to give $7.5 million to prepare high school students in New Orleans for jobs in health care and technology. Aimed at students who may not be entering college, the grants will support Youthforce NOLA in providing paid internships for up to 1,200 students, to collaborate with local public high schools to redesign curriculums to include more career-based courses and provide certification for another 1,600 students in careers that will be in high demand.
Watching for movement in the House
The House Ways and Means Committee, where revenue-raising measures must start, is scheduled to vote today on bills that would renew part of the “clean penny” of sales tax. Eight bills are on the committee’s agenda. Some would raise the full $507 million needed to avoid cuts to key priorities, while others would raise smaller amounts that would force program cuts. The big question everyone is asking around the Capitol is which bill will the committee send to the floor, if any? Julia O’Donoghue of Nola.com | The Times-Picayune explains:
Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Senate leadership, House Democrats and more moderate House Republicans want to renew a 4.5 sales tax rate, which also failed to get enough support in the last special session. The Ways and Means Committee is conservative and unlikely to support any tax bill that is not backed by House GOP leadership. It’s possible that only House Bill 10, which is sponsored by state Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, and contains a 4.4 sales tax rate, will move forward in the process.
Minimum wage and minority families
A stagnant minimum wage that has failed to keep up with inflation has contributed to higher poverty rates among people of color. A full-time minimum wage job in 1968 would produce an annual income of $20,604 in 2017 dollars, which is enough to live just above the poverty line for a family of three. The minimum wage today only produces a full-time annual income of $15,080, which is a poverty wage even for a family of two. A new publication by Ben Zipperer of the Economic Policy Institute writes how this disproportionately impacts minority workers:
The fall in the inflation-adjusted minimum wage over the last five decades has made poverty rates substantially worse, particularly for people of color. As Figure B shows [available in link above], more than one out of five nonelderly black and Hispanic people lived in poverty in 2016, or about 18.3 million people. While poverty has a variety of causes, one important contribution is low wages. … The most comprehensive assessment of the effect of the minimum wage on family incomes finds that every 10.0 percent increase in the inflation-adjusted minimum wage reduces black and Hispanic poverty rates by about 10.9 percent. Had the federal minimum wage been raised to keep up with inflation since the Poor People’s Campaign began in 1968, black and Hispanic poverty rates would be 18.2 percent lower, and nearly 3.3 million African Americans and Hispanics would no longer be in poverty.
Number of the Day:
$34.7 million – The cut projected for the Department of Children and Family Services if the Legislature doesn’t renew any revenue in the third special session, about one-quarter of the department’s state funding. (Source: Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)