The con-con con

The con-con con

Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone has refused to detail what changes he wants to see in Louisiana’s constitution, which he has promised to overhaul if elected governor. But the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports that Rispone would lean heavily on the conservative Pelican Institute for Public Policy for guidance. That could mean cuts to public education funding that is now protected, less retirement security for teachers and other public employees and higher property taxes for homeowners. 

Rispone’s central theme when pushing for a convention involves finances. He says too many rules controlling government spending and tax policy are locked into the constitution, limiting lawmakers’ ability to respond to financial problems or determine spending priorities.

The Advocate’s Sam Karlin zeroes in on the homestead exemption, which the Pelican Institute tried unsuccessfully to curtail earlier this year through legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve Carter. 

The tax break forgives 10% of the value of a taxpayer’s primary home, up to $75,000, of the assessment for property taxes. That means nearly a third of homeowners pay no property taxes at all. In 2018, homestead exemptions were granted on about $7.3 billion in property, according to the state Tax Commission.


“An easy sell” on early childhood
The candidates for Louisiana governor have deep differences on taxes, health coverage and criminal justice reform. But they both agree about the need for better investments in high-quality early care and education for children from birth to 3. The Advocate’s editorial board extols the broad-based Ready Louisiana Coalition (which includes LBP) pushing for more dollars and wants politicians held accountable: 

(E)xpanding early childhood services will cost money — $86 million annually to increase access from 22,000 spots to 177,000 in the next decade, the target recommended by the bipartisan Louisiana Early Childhood Care & Education Commission. That’s less of a barrier now that the state is enjoying a surplus after years of shortfalls, but it will nevertheless require a certain level of will. Still, a poll for the coalition found that 62 percent of likely voters back more funding for this important cause, and candidates up and down the ballot have pledged their support. We should all hold them to it after the votes are counted.


The candidates and the economy
Gov. John Bel Edwards and challenger Eddie Rispone have made wildly conflicting claims about Louisiana’s economy, with Edwards touting the state’s low unemployment and recent economic growth, while Rispone repeats the line that the state ranks “dead last.” The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges combs through the details and concludes that Edwards is mostly right while Rispone is wrong. But he also notes that governors have less control over short-term economic results than politicians would have you think.

LSU economics professor Jim Richardson and Greg Albrecht, the Legislature’s chief economist, pin the blame for the slow growth on the price of oil, the Trump administration’s trade war and a drop off of industrial construction projects in south Louisiana. … State officials “can’t stimulate the economy through tax and spending policies because they have to run a balanced budget, unlike the federal government,” Albrecht said.


Black students post impressive gains
While Louisiana continues to rank near the bottom on national tests of educational achievement, The Advocate’s Will Sentell takes note of a significant bright spot: Black students in the state have made significant strides in eighth-grade reading and math, as well as fourth-grade math. They now rank near the middle when compared to black students in other states.

Linda Johnson, who served on BESE from 1999 to 2011, said the state’s focus on black students, those from low-income families and other “subgroups” is paying off. “A lot has to do with the curriculum materials we have in place,” Johnson said. “A lot has to do with the emphasis we put on subgroups.” 


LBP on the Road
The Louisiana Budget Project and the Invest in Louisiana campaign are on the road this week with the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families and other community partners. We’ll be in Alexandria today, Monroe on Tuesday, Lafayette on Wednesday and New Orleans on Friday to talk about recent policy wins for children and the road ahead. All the details are on the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families webpage


Number of the Day
$10,600 – Annual cost, per person, of America’s health care “system” in 2017. (Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development via The New York Times)