Gov. John Bel Edwards and businessman Eddie Rispone met Wednesday for their only face-to-face televised debate before the Nov. 16 runoff, and the results were not pretty. The candidates spent much of the hour blasting each other, while providing little new information about the policies they’d enact if elected. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin was there:
Edwards and Rispone share conservative pro-gun, anti-abortion positions, neutralizing two of the most potent cultural flash points in Louisiana elections. They differ on a host of other issues. Edwards has campaigned on his expansion of Medicaid, while Rispone wants to freeze enrollment and undertake an unspecified reform of the program. The governor opposes a convention to rewrite Louisiana’s constitution, while Rispone supports one. Edwards is mostly standing behind his overhaul of the lucrative Industrial Tax Exemption Program, an incentive for manufacturers, while Rispone wants to change it.
Columnist Stephanie Grace points out that Rispone did say he would seek to protect state funding for local first responders and K-12 public schools if he gets his wish of a constitutional convention.
When Edwards pressed him what he actually wants to change, Rispone said that “we need to do something with the constitution. It needs to be advanced.” He mentioned “taxes and revenues” but not necessarily eliminating the income tax, “something with education” and “something with unfunded liability” but did not elaborate beyond insisting that “business people, we know how to put things together.”
Rich student, poor student
Years of cuts to state funding for higher education have made public college a pricey investment for Louisiana’s students. But while TOPS has kept the cost of attending a state school more or less in reach for middle-class students, the Go Grant program – the scholarship intended to support students with the greatest financial needs – remains vastly underfunded. As Emmanuel Felton explains in The Hechinger Report, this means that the state effectively funds higher education for the rich on the backs of the poor. Felton quotes LBP’s Davante Lewis on how TOPS is functioning exactly as lawmakers intended:
Davante Lewis of the Louisiana Budget Project believes that the TOPS program is working just as lawmakers intended when they removed the income cap in 1997. “We had a bunch of lawmakers who just felt like the program was too black,” said Lewis, whose public policy group advocates for low- and middle-income families. “A lot of members of the House and the Senate felt that their constituencies, which were predominately white and predominately wealthy, weren’t getting any benefit from TOPS. And they felt like the same people who had access to Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and cash assistance were now also getting financial aid for college.”
Black defendants in Louisiana get harsher punishments
Iberia Parish District Attorney Bo Duhé has filed motions to remove Judge Lori Landry from over 300 cases, accusing Landry of bias because she has accused the prosecutor’s office of disproportionately targeting i black defendants. Writing in The Appeal, Sarah Lustbader argues that whether Landry has a personal bias or not, statistics for Louisiana as a whole bear out the claim that justice in Louisiana is far from color-blind.
“A 2016 study found that in Louisiana, killers of white victims were 14 times more likely to be executed than killers of Black victims,” writes Radley Balko in an exhaustive compilation of studies showing evidence of discrimination in the criminal system. “Black men who killed white women were 30 times more likely to get the death penalty than Black men who killed Black men. Those convicted of killing white people were also less likely to have their sentences overturned on appeal, and Louisiana hasn’t executed a white person for killing a Black person since 1752.”
Mr. Purpera goes to Washington
Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera was called to a U.S. Senate Finance Committee panel on Wednesday to discuss his controversial 2018 audit of the Medicaid program. The audit found that about 1 in 12 single-person households who got coverage through expansion earned too much money at some point during the year to qualify for health insurance. Medicaid’s critics have cited the audit to support their claims that the program is wasteful – even though the program is growing slower at a national level than overall healthcare spending. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp notes that Purpera’s audit preceded a new computerized eligibility system that makes more frequent checks of recipients’ incomes:
Medicaid in Louisiana and other states has historically relied heavily on recipients to self-report their income. Since the auditor’s review, Louisiana has instituted a new eligibility system. About half a million people have been added to the state’s Medicaid rolls through the expansion, which applies to adults whose household income falls below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $16,600 annually for a single person or $33,900 for a family of four (Note: It’s $17,244 for an individual and $35,544 for a family of four).
Correction: Wednesday’s Daily Dime gave the wrong start date for early voting. It begins this Saturday, Nov. 2. Click here to find your polling location and sample ballot, and make sure to make your voice heard in the upcoming elections!
Number of the Day
95% – Proportion of union workers with access to health coverage through their employer. Only 68% of non-union workers have access to employer-sponsored coverage. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)