Bill could streamline sales tax collections
Rep. Tanner Magee has filed legislation aimed at simplifying Louisiana’s tax code by transferring the job of collecting sales taxes from parish-level agencies to the state. According to Magee, House Bill 57 would allow the state to collect sales taxes on online purchases, an option available to Louisiana after a 2018 Supreme Court ruling. Magee’s bill is a constitutional amendment, which requires two-thirds support in each chamber and voter approval to become law. Like past efforts to reform Louisiana’s tax code, the bill is supported by business groups, but is opposed by local governments that don’t want to give up their tax collection mandate. The Advocate’s David J. Mitchell reports:
Magee said Monday his bill, which would apply to brick-and-mortar sales, too, would make the state more competitive economically, especially aiding small businesses, and bring Louisiana in line with all but one other state in the nation. “Why wouldn’t we want a streamlined process? Why would we want a Byzantine way of doing things instead of one thing,” Magee asked. Magee said he has backing from an array of business groups, including the National Federation of Independent Business, the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry … Local government officials say their system allows a better understanding of idiosyncratic sales tax collection districts and the local market conditions that a bureaucracy centered in Baton Rouge never could do.
Wall Street drives up prices for rental homes
In a little over a decade, the U.S. homeownership rate has fallen dramatically. This can be attributed to a housing bubble, followed by the Great Recession and then years of policies that did little to protect the homeownership gains made in the preceding decades. After the housing bubble burst, Wall Street firms became a new, prominent player in the housing market by buying up large numbers of foreclosed homes and renting them out to tenants. Bloomberg’s Noah Smith explains the downsides of Wall Street’s entry into the single-family rental home market.
In the cities and neighborhoods where Wall Street investors own large pieces of the market, these big companies could use their power to raise rents in whole neighborhoods. That in turn could contribute to the rent crisis now afflicting many of the nation’s big cities. Wall Street landlords may also compromise quality. Their local dominance may afford them the luxury of simply ignoring tenants’ needs, especially in cities without strong protections for renters. But the most troubling impact could be on the American Dream of homeownership. Increasingly, young Americans looking to buy houses will be competing with big corporate landlords. There are a number of reasons that competition will not favor the aspiring homeowner. Big landlords have cheap financing at their disposal — securitized bonds, REIT share sales — while individuals have to rely on mortgages. Big landlords may also value a house more, due to the high rents that their local market power lets them to squeeze out of tenants.
New Orleans business leaders support early childhood investments
More business leaders in our state are recognizing that investing now in Louisiana’s children is an investment in the future of Louisiana’s businesses. That’s why two New Orleans businessmen are urging the state and to move ahead on funding for early childhood education. But as, M. Pres Kabacoff and Bill Hammack argue in The Advocate, House Speaker Taylor Barras’s refusal to recognize an updated revenue forecast is putting that investment in jeopardy.
Edwards has said funding for early childhood education is a priority, and we believe him. He and first lady Donna Edwards have been incredibly involved in the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission. They understand the needs of our children, and they are working to make multi-year investments in teacher pay and, down the line, in early childhood education as well. That said, we can’t wait. Louisiana needs to make these investments, pay raises and funding for early childhood education, this year. That’s why it is time for Speaker Barras to vote to recognize the revenue coming into the state, accepting one of the carefully prepared revenue forecasts and allow the budget to move forward and be debated. Louisiana at long last has resources to dedicate to education. Let’s not let politics get in the way of helping our children now, and in the future.
The devastating effects of short-term health plans
After the Affordable Care Act became law, horror stories of insurance companies denying or canceling coverage because of a preexisting condition were thought to be a thing of the past. However, the Trump administration’s decision to relax the law’s standards in order to offer skimpier short term-health plans are bringing back familiar woes for consumers. The Obama administration moved to limit these plans, which aren’t subject to the same rules as traditional health insurance, but last year the Trump administration changed course. The Los Angeles Times’ Noam M. Levey tells the story of Charley Butler, a Montana truck driver who, like many consumers, enrolled in a short term plan without a clear understanding of the plan’s limitations.
Butler’s troubles began in August 2016 when he went to the doctor with pain in his groin and was diagnosed with testicular cancer that was ultimately found to have spread to his lungs. Over the next six months, Butler underwent two surgeries and aggressive chemotherapy. It was a stressful time, Butler recalled, made worse when medical bills started arriving with no indication the insurance plan was paying anything. He and his wife, Chole, were told they owed more than $3,000 to Butler’s surgeon, nearly $1,700 to the anesthesiologist and more than $20,000 to the hospital. Altogether, the bills would add up to more than $43,000.
Number of the Day
47 percent – Percent of Louisiana residents who say the state is heading in the right direction, up from 39 percent last year. (Source: 2019 Louisiana Survey, LSU Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs)