Momentum appears to be building behind an effort to earmark future tax revenue from legalized sports betting to early childhood education. Louisiana currently spends no state general fund dollars on subsidies for families that can’t afford high quality child care for young children, instead using federal block-grant dollars for that purpose. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that the Senate’s leading supporter of legalized sports betting, Sen. Danny Martiny of Kenner, is on board with earmarking the money for early childhood education.
Advocates contend the unlikely marriage of sports betting and early childhood education could benefit both sides, and has in other states. Some lawmakers reluctant to endorse betting might do so if they see it as raising money for a good cause, like lottery backers promising that part of the proceeds would go to public schools. Promoters of new state aid for early childhood education and care could finally realize a dedicated revenue stream for their cause, which has been battered by budget cuts in recent years. Doing so could eventually generate $62 million per year, according to the American Gaming Association.
The benefits of union membership
The massive decline of labor union membership in America has been well documented. Less noticed is the effect this trend has had on the public safety net. The Nation’s Michelle Chen reports on a University of Minnesota study that found union households are far more likely to be self-sufficient, and less likely to require financial support from anti-poverty programs.
Surveying wage trends from 1994 to 2015, for workers and the public purse, “union membership raises private income, lowers public-benefit use, and increases taxes paid, yielding a positive net fiscal impact.” Adding up the net worth of federal benefits programs, including unemployment insurance, cash assistance for poor families, food stamps, disability, and Social Security—which average around $1,400 each year per worker—are basically replaced with added private income negotiated through union contracts. Unionized workers had greater economic security, using about 23 percent less than nonunion peers in public benefits (about $336 annually).
Trouble on the farm
China typically buys about 60 percent of the soybeans grown in Louisiana. But that all changed when the Chinese imposed a 25 percent tax (or “tariff”) on soybeans in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s new taxes on a range of Chinese imports. The standoff has created uncertainty for farmers in the Pelican State, who are hoping for a resolution of the trade war before the March 1 expiration of a “timeout truce” between the two superpowers. The Advocate’s Ellyn Couvillion:
“Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong” in 2018, said James Guillot, a soybean farmer in Avoyelles Parish. Bobby Skeen, executive director of the Louisiana Soybean Association, points out that for soybean farmers to receive federal aid in the form of $1.65 per bushel, a stop-gap measure while the tariff issues continue, a farmer is required to harvest the crop and bring it to market. That left some farmers having to decide whether to go to the expense of harvesting rain-ruined crops and bring them to a grain elevator for a rejection letter that would satisfy the aid requirement, Skeen said. “You may still get $1.65 a bushel, but it doesn’t even justify harvesting,” he said.
The Advocate’s editorial board says the problems aren’t confined to soybeans:
Louisiana ports are also involved with imports of steel — and there too is a potential problem. … Tariffs on imported steel are not only bad for ports in Louisiana, but also raise prices for manufactured goods and expanding facilities such as petrochemical plants, pipelines and natural-gas exporting facilities. All are vital for Louisiana’s future growth.
The truth about taxes
Louisiana’s gubernatorial race started heating up last week, when Gov. John Bel Edwards formally announced his re-election bid while his two declared opponents, businessman Eddie Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, raised money and announced staff hires. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte expects tax policy to be a key issue in the race, especially the governor’s support of a temporary sales-tax increase to help dig state government out of a fiscal hole. And he offers this perspective:
Under Jindal’s two terms, he and lawmakers repeatedly used short-term patches to eliminate financial shortfalls. They raided savings accounts, drained trust funds, sold off state property and delayed bill payments to keep the budget in balance amid tax breaks that siphoned away more and more money from the treasury. But Jindal and lawmakers refused to either cut government enough to match the recurring, annual tax and fee money the state receives or to raise taxes to match the programs and services they wanted to provide. Those decisions kept causing new budget holes, creating continual cycles of uncertainty.
Number of the Day
$7,400 – Annual difference in pay between the average union household and non-union household. The higher pay means union households use, on average 23 percent fewer public benefits than non-union households in a given year. (Source: The Nation)