A campaign about nothing?

A campaign about nothing?

The gubernatorial primary is 33 days away, and so far the three leading candidates for governor have said little about what they plan to do if elected. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, Gov. John Bel Edwards is offering a ‘stay-the-course pitch’ for a second term, while his challengers are being notably vague about their plans for the state. Businessman Eddie Rispone wants to rewrite the state constitution, but isn’t offering specifics. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham wants to cut taxes and increase spending, but won’t say how. 

Asked at a GOP candidate forum about how he’d improve public K-12 education, Abraham described a philosophy of “letting teachers teach” and spending education dollars more “wisely.”

The inimitable Jim Beam of the Lake Charles American-Press digs into the candidates’ platforms and finds that Abraham and Edwards actually agree on the need to eliminate the federal income-tax deduction (Rispone took no position). The idea has gone nowhere in the Legislature in recent years. 

The Advocate’s editorial board finds some daylight between Edwards and his challengers on the issue of moving to a centralized system for collecting sales taxes, which most states currently have but Louisiana has stubbornly resisted.  

Louisiana is one of three states where local jurisdictions — about 370 of them, each with a different tax rate — have similar authority to levy and collect their own sales taxes from brick-and-mortar establishments, though mostly the taxes are collected on a parish level. … Businesses call the system an administrative quagmire. And it is very difficult to move to a centralized administrative scheme because of political jobs in each parish.


Addicted to fines
Mike Maciag of Governing magazine recently conducted a national analysis to find out which small towns depended most heavily on fines and fees to finance their operations. The top eight spots on the list were towns in Louisiana – led by Georgetown, a village of fewer than 500 people along Hwy 165, which derives 92% of its annual budget from fees and fines.

High fine communities can be found in just about every state, but they tend to be concentrated in certain parts of the country. Rural areas with high poverty have especially high rates. So do places with very limited tax bases or those with independent local municipal courts. And these jurisdictions are far more common in the South than elsewhere.


BESE up for grabs
While the governor’s race grabs the headlines, the fall elections will also help determine the future of Louisiana’s public schools. More than half the seats on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are on the Oct. 12 ballot, and four incumbents are facing challengers. The Advocate’s Will Sentell has a roundup: 

A total of 20 candidates are running for seven seats statewide, with some of the challengers arguing that the state needs to roll back key parts of new policies put in place since 2012, including those on charter school and voucher operations. … The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, or LABI, which has backed sweeping changes in public schools, has endorsed a slate of candidates. On the other side, the state’s two teachers unions — the Louisiana Association of Educators, known as LAE, and Louisiana Federation of Teachers, or LFT — have endorsed near-identical slates of their own.


Which health policies actually work?
The United States spends more money on health care than any nation in the world (with middling results). With so much at stake – in health and wealth – you’d think the government would be interested in figuring out which policies work and which ones don’t. You’d be wrong, as Austin Frakt reports for The New York Times

Rigorous evaluations of health policy are exceedingly rare. The United States spends a tremendous amount on health care, but very little of it learning which health policies work and which don’t. In fact, less than 0.1 percent of total spending on American health care is devoted to evaluating them. As a result, there’s a lot less solid evidence to inform decision making on programs like Medicaid or Medicaid than you might think.


Number of the Day
49 – Number of Louisiana localities where fines and fees account for more than 20% of general revenues (Source: Governing magazine)