Louisiana’s 2019 legislative session must end by 6 p.m. today, and while in recent days the Capitol has seen pitched debates over bills affecting women’s access to reproductive care and aiming to set a minimum age for marriage, talk about the budget has been relatively quiet. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, that’s largely due to last year’s hard-won compromise to raise sales taxes enough to cover the state’s expenses:
After years of fighting about how to fill budget gaps, this year’s spending debates have been less contentious, after the governor and lawmakers passed a seven-year tax deal in 2018 that stabilized finances. Legislators this year bickered over how to spend new money, a more pleasant task. “It was kind of quiet,” House Republican leader Lance Harris said of the negotiations this session. “We just muddled through the budget process, and the budget process works.” Lawmakers were working through disagreements over small sums, but plans to boost spending on colleges, health services, foster care, senior centers and public safety programs were expected to remain intact.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is also scheduled to sign SB109 into law today, which will allow the Department of Children and Family Services to assist children aging out of the foster care system with their transition into housing, post-secondary education and employment. As NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune’s Richard Webster reported when the bill first was first considered in committee, this change will bring Louisiana into line with 28 other states who work to secure better outcomes for foster youth as they enter legal adulthood.
Aliyah Zieen, 22, is a former foster care youth who aged out of the system in 2014. She asked Senate committee members to consider what it would be like to have endured countless number of traumatic events at a young age, to be taken from your home and placed with a foster family, and then at the age of 18 to be kicked out of the system and expected to live independently without any support.
LBP will have a wrap-up report on the highlights (and lowlights) of the session early next week.
The slowing labor market
America’s job market has been surging for nearly a decade, adding new jobs each month. But a report this week from payroll processor ADP suggests things might be slowing down. The private sector added only 27,000 jobs in May, a dramatic drop from April’s total of 271,000 new jobs, and the lowest monthly job growth figure in nine years. The biggest erosion is among businesses with fewer than 50 employees, which shed 52,000 jobs last month. The decline was so significant that the Labor Department was compelled to readjust its numbers before the release of the U.S. job report this Friday. Taylor Telford in the Washington Post explains some of the reasons behind the new downturn:
Not only are factories not coming back to America, the existing companies in the country are not churning out new jobs,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG, wrote in a note to investors on Wednesday. “If this number is to be believed the Trump economics team is going to have to find a new way to boost economic growth as the economy is clearly slowing and a slowing economy does not make business run out and hire a lot of new people to help them sell and produce goods and services.”
A pipeline to incarceration
The 2019-20 state budget, which is likely to receive final passage today, includes a boost to per-pupil spending. But while an across-the-board increase in school spending is a welcome change for under-resourced schools, a bump in funding alone won’t solve the structural problems that continue to put Louisiana’s students of color at a disadvantage. One of the most significant resource issues may lie at the intersection between race and ableness. More than 80 percent of students with a disability diagnosis in Orleans schools are African-American, and as Ryan Whirty documents in the Louisiana Weekly, school discipline policies often funnel students of color with disabilities into the criminal justice system rather than provide the resources and training:
With the project, the SPLC presented hard data on the shocking prevalence of expulsions and suspensions with New Orleans schools as compared to the rest of the state, as well as heart-rending individual, first-person testimonies from students and their parents detailing the often-insurmountable challenges special-needs youth face in terms of disproportional, draconian punishment they receive. Instead of receiving sensitivity and understanding, the report said, many students are treated with handcuffs and physical assault. … Far from keeping New Orleans schools safe, these policies actually reinforce a culture of violence and disengagement from schools and communities.
Half of all Americans own only 1% of the nation’s wealth
New wealth distribution data from the Federal Reserve shows that the least wealthy 50% of Americans are almost entirely excluded from any share of U.S. aggregate wealth, owning just 1% of the nation’s total assets. Wealth – or household net worth – is critical to economic well-being. While low wages and limited job mobility make it extremely difficult for low- to moderate-income earners to accumulate assets, people without savings are often only one paycheck away from a financial emergency. Pedro Nicolaci da Costa from the Economic Policy Institute explains the Fed data in Forbes:
In 2018, the richest 10% held 70% of total household wealth, up from 60% in 1989. The share funneled to the top 1%’ jumped to 32% last year from 23% in 1989. The increase in the wealth share of the top 10% came at the expense of households in the 50th to 90th percentiles of the wealth distribution,” the paper said. Their share dropped to 29% from over the same period. The bottom 50% saw essentially zero net gains in wealth over those 30 years, driving their already meager share of total wealth down to just 1% from 4%.
The racial wealth gap is even more troubling – for every dollar in wealth held by White households, Black households hold less than seven cents.
Invest in Louisiana
How can we make stronger investments in children, families and Louisiana communities? How can we reduce the economic and racial barriers that too often divide us? Come learn more at the inaugural Invest in Louisiana Policy Conference on Aug. 16 in Baton Rouge. Tickets are available at this link. The conference will feature artist and scholar Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) and Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins (@ShreveportMayor), and builds around the #PutPeopleFirst policy agenda. Learn more about how the campaign to Invest in Louisiana aims to make Louisiana’s policy work for Louisiana’s people by clicking here.
Number of the Day
$10,374,030.10 – Minimum net worth of the richest 1% of American households. (Source: Don’t Quit Your Day Job Blog)