More funding for early childhood education

More funding for early childhood education

The Senate Finance Committee meets Friday to hear testimony from the public, and on Memorial Day the panel is expected to put its mark on the $30 billion state operating budget. One of the biggest questions for policymakers is how much money should go to subsidized early care and education programs for young children. There are more than 5,500 children on a waiting list for care, and advocates say at least $31 million is needed to eliminate that list and bring subsidies given to child care centers in line with the centers’ costs of operation. On Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards proposed spending an additional $4.3 million to reduce the waiting list by 1,300 kids. The Advocate’s Will Sentell has more.

Critics contend the governor and others have failed to prioritize aid for children from birth to age 3, which they say can better prepare children for kindergarten and reduce chances for education problems when they are older. The key target of advocates is a program called the Child Care Assistance Program, or CCAP. It provides low-income families with state assistance so their children can attend care centers while they work, undergo job training or attend school. It has a waiting list of 5,520 children, including 2,250 in families who are authorized for services but have shied away from doing so because state reimbursement rates are so low.


Minimum wage falls without a vote
Louisiana residents won’t get a chance to vote this fall on whether to establish a $9 per hour minimum wage, after the author of a proposed constitutional amendment pulled it from consideration on the Senate floor without a vote. Sen. Troy Carter of New Orleans said his Senate Bill 155 was “woefully short” of the two-thirds majority vote needed to send the bill to the House for more debate. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin:

The Louisiana Budget Project says increasing the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour would directly affect 112,700 workers, boosting annual wages by a total of $156 million. The move would disproportionately affect women workers and people of color, according to a report compiled by LBP, which cited research from the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that analyzes policies that impact working families. Business groups have consistently lobbied against minimum wage hikes, arguing the government should not be able to tell businesses what they must pay workers. The influential Louisiana Association of Business and Industry called the idea a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

It’s the fourth straight year Gov. John Bel Edwards has been unsuccessful in his effort to raise the wage. In the House, members of the Labor and Industrial Affairs Committee rejected an attempt to lift the state law that prohibits municipalities from establishing their own minimum wage.


Battle over the ACA
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry have been fighting a political proxy war over a bill designed to protect some people with pre-existing conditions. Such protections would otherwise vanish if Landry is successful in his lawsuit to overturn the federal Affordable Care Act. On Tuesday, Senate Bill 173 by Sen. Fred Mills moved a step closer to final passage as it sailed unanimously through the House Insurance Committee. But as the AP’s Melinda Deslatte explains, it would only help a small percentage of those who have gained coverage through the federal health care law – and those people would only be helped if Congress ponies up money for a “high risk pool.”

No financing for the high-risk pool is certain, and [Edwards’ executive counsel Matthew] Block said it doesn’t help the 500,000 people who would lose coverage if the Medicaid expansion program authorized under the federal law is scrapped. … Landry said the bill he supports, sponsored by Republican Sen. Fred Mills, aims to offer protections to people with preexisting conditions who buy their coverage on the individual market, those who don’t have government insurance like Medicare and can’t get insurance through employers.


Are Medicaid expansion and ITEP reform here to stay?
Two of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ signature accomplishments – the expansion of Medicaid coverage for the working poor and the scaling back of automatic property tax breaks for manufacturers – are likely to remain on the state’s books regardless of what happens in this year’s election. The Advocate’s Lanny Keller notes that benefits are almost impossible take away once they’re given:

After all, once you give somebody an insurance card — even one in, as then-Gov. Bobby Jindal often said, an imperfect system — how will you get it back? Probably never, as when new Gov. John Bel Edwards expanded the program by executive order in 2016. Even his two current Republican challengers in the October primary, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, of Alto, and businessman Eddie Rispone, of Baton Rouge, approach the idea of a scaleback very gingerly. Whining about the program’s administration is not exactly a political clarion call for its repeal.

The same is likely true of the reforms to the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, where manufacturers now pay 20% of the property taxes they owe after generations where they paid nothing for 10 years.

Taking money away from school boards, sheriffs and cities remains difficult, once Edwards gave them the power to judge the industrial tax breaks for themselves. That it’s even a dispute in the Legislature, against the law of political physics, tells us a lot about those representing The People — the oil people, the gas people, and so on. And let’s not forget, the beneficiaries of Medicaid expansion, including rural hospitals and health care providers.


Number of the Day
37% – Top federal tax rate charged on survivors benefits paid to some Gold Star families under President Donald Trump’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act. Congress is working on legislation to remedy the problem. (Source: The Advocate)