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Louisiana wary as trade war escalates
President Donald Trump blindsided international markets last week when he announced a new round of tariffs on Chinese goods. On Monday, the Chinese government responded by devaluing its currency, and halting all purchases of U.S. agricultural products. Annie Ourso Landry of the Baton Rouge Business Report outlines how this new phase of the trade war could threaten two of Louisiana’s most significant economic sectors: farming and manufacturing.
Local economist Loren Scott points to lucrative projects like the $1.25 billion Wanhua chemical plant proposed in St. James Parish, saying Wanhua is a Chinese company that could hold off on the project due to trade tensions. Not only that, tariffs drive up construction costs for steel-intensive projects, like the Wanhua plant and others in the works, potentially causing further delays. … Meanwhile, in the agricultural industry, anytime there’s a threat of new tariffs, demand for agricultural products will likely be impacted, as well as prices, says Michael Deliberto, LSU AgCenter professor of agricultural economics. Crops expected to be most affected are soybeans, corn and cotton. For Louisiana, soybeans have suffered most from the U.S.-China trade war, as the Asian country is Louisiana’s largest export market for soybeans. China had recently committed to buying large shipments of U.S. soybeans, but they haven’t been shipped yet. With the new proposed tariffs, the question now is, will they take it?
No fee increases for students
For the better part of a decade, Louisiana’s college have had to worry about surprise fees that pop up when they register for classes. That’s because for Louisiana has spent years cutting funding for higher education, shifting the responsibility of paying for college from the state to the students. But while fees remain high, Louisiana’s university students won’t see a large uptick in fees this fall. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, that’s thanks to increases in state higher ed funding passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards this spring:
Gov. John Bel Edwards and state lawmakers boosted state spending on higher education by $47 million in the $30 billion-plus state operating budget that started July 1. Nearly one-third of the increase ensures TOPS covers full tuition for all eligible students. More than $9 million will help campuses pay for some of their growing health and retirement costs. [Cami] Geisman said the UL System board didn’t want to raise student charges because of the legislative efforts to increase higher education financing, but also because of concerns about the impact on students. “The cost to the student has increased so much over the past decade, something’s got to give,” she said. “We can’t just keep increasing fees and increasing fees.”
State picks companies to manage care for Medicaid recipients
The state health department has picked four insurance companies to oversee the care of more than 1 million Medicaid recipients in the state – down from the current roster of five. As the Advocate’s Sam Karlin explains, after a shift to managed care under Gov. Bobby Jindal, these companies are responsible for handling coverage for most of Louisiana’s 1.7 million Medicaid beneficiaries. The awards came with some controversy. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports that Rep. Jack McFarland criticized the selection process and lack of legislative review.
“I have health care providers in my district that have concerns that they felt like one of the better managed care organizations has been left out,” McFarland said Monday. He suggested lawmakers should have had approval – or at least some sort of review – over contracts that will lock the state into billions in spending for years. “It hints of impropriety,” said McFarland, a member of the House budget committee. “I’m going to be held responsible for funding it, and yet I have no input on it. And that bothers me.”
SNAP benefits are too low
This June, SNAP (food stamps) helped 802,000 people in Louisiana put food on the table and make ends meet. But even with food assistance, many people in Louisiana and throughout the United States still struggle to afford nutritionally adequate food for their families. That’s because SNAP benefits — which average $1.40 per person, per meal — are based on unrealistic assumptions about how much healthy food costs, and how much time working families have to prepare meals. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’s Steven Carslon reports, even though families receiving SNAP already spend more time preparing meals than other families, the food plan that is the basis for determining SNAP benefits assumes that they spend nearly three times as long preparing meals from raw ingredients as they actually do:
Despite the program’s success, millions of Americans, including roughly half of all households participating in SNAP, are still food insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to enough food to support an active, healthy life. Even those who achieve food security often find it hard to stretch their limited resources far enough to purchase and consume a healthy diet. These facts suggest that SNAP’s relatively modest benefits — which average less than $1.40 per person per meal — may not be enough to meet the needs of America’s poor. Our review of research from the last decade strongly suggests that SNAP benefits fall short of what many participants need to purchase and prepare a healthy diet and that additional benefits would increase food expenditures and improve food security.
Number of the Day
$1,350 – Average deductible for a health insurance plan obtained through a job. One in four workers have deductibles of $2,000 or more. (Kaiser Family Foundation)