Earned Income Tax Credit is good for Louisiana families
As Louisiana families begin filing their income tax returns, many will see a little extra money – about $45 per filer – in their state refunds. That’s because the state Legislature, as part of the 2018 tax compromise, agreed to a modest boost in the state Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC only goes to working families with children who are getting by on low wages, helping them keep more of what they earn. About 488,000 Louisiana families claimed the credit last year, representing about 1 in 3 tax filers. This injected almost $1.5 billion back into Louisiana’s economy. But as LBP’s Neva Butkus explains in a guest column in the Shreveport Times, there’s still more legislators can do to help working families.
While the legislature took an important step forward by boosting the state credit from 3.5% to 5%, it isn’t nearly enough to provide the economic security that every working family deserves. The United Way’s ALICE report tells us that four in 10 Louisiana households struggle to afford basic necessities each month. Louisiana’s state EITC match makes a significant impact for the families who receive it but it remains one of the smallest matches of any state with a similar program. As Louisianans begin filing their 2019 taxes, consider telling your legislators what many Louisianans already know: that the EITC is good for Louisiana families and good for the Louisiana economy.
(Slight) progress for gender equity in Legislature
There has been a hint of progress for gender equity in the Louisiana Legislature, as women now make up 18.1% of lawmakers, up from 15.3% before the fall elections. However, no top leadership assignments were given to women, and the state’s congressional delegation is still male dominated. The Advocate’s Stephanie Grace explains the slow, incremental progress for women in state government.
So instead of ranking ahead of only three other states in female representation, Louisiana now ranks ahead of six. For those into comparisons, West Virginia has the least equally-divided Legislature, with just 13.4% of seats held by women. On the flip side, 40% of that state’s Congressional delegation is female. In Louisiana, the entire Congressional delegation is male. … Nationally, the report says, 29% of state lawmakers are women, which is up from 18% — again, Louisiana’s current, increased proportion — back in 1991. So it’s fair to say that around the country, and certainly around here, women haven’t exactly come a long way.
Freshmen need to step up
Former Marquette Basketball coach Al McGuire famously said, “The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.” That quote aptly applies to the new members of the Legislature, as there are many issues to tackle, but a dearth of experience. As the Advocates Lanny Keller explains – with more sports analogies – we need courage and determination from new members of the Legislature to tackle the big issues facing our state.
They’re probably wanting to make their marks, but they’ve already had to scramble out of the pocket a few times during a bruising battle over who should be speaker of the House. That fight was between contenders who were severely conservative and ultraconservative. It was a mess, with threats and bullying hardly an entrée into a new season of one team, one heartbeat. A team with a lot of rookies can still win with courage and determination. Will we have that at the State Capitol?
Funding overhaul for justice system
Louisiana needs to overhaul how it funds its justice system, according to a report from the Louisiana Commission on Justice System Funding. The state commission’s draft report recommends that instead of relying heavily on fines and fees, which is ineffective and possibly unconstitutional, the state should use general government revenue to fund its courts. The Center Square’s David Jacobs reports:
The current system encourages local jurisdictions to focus on debt collection rather than helping victims and reducing recidivism, the report says. The system is “void of basic notions of transparency and ripe for potential fraud from bad actors,” it continues. The report recommends that lawmakers mandate uniform reporting by all entities that collect or receive money from fines and fees. Under the current system, the reporting methods and level of detail varies widely by jurisdiction, making it impossible for state auditors to determine how much money is being spent or verify that it is being spent the way it should be.
Number of the Day
$1.5 billion – Amount of money the federal and state EITC injects into Louisiana’s economy each year. (Source: Tax Policy Center)