Racial justice and state tax policy are closely linked

Racial justice and state tax policy are closely linked

State tax policy plays an important role in advancing racial equity. That’s because how states raise revenue and what they decide to spend it on can help reduce poverty and expand opportunity, two keys to achieving true racial justice. Current tax policies have played a role in sustaining racial disparities, but as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Michael Leachman explains, there are things states can do to reverse this trend. 

The good news is that states can help overcome these racial inequities by improving their tax codes and better funding public services like schools, health care, and infrastructure. While states’ specific needs may vary, lawmakers should fix upside-down tax codes that ask families with lower incomes to pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than their high-income peers; raise sufficient revenue for equitable, sustained public investments; target those investments to best advance equity; and eliminate undemocratic decision-making policies like supermajority requirements and property tax limits.

States sue over SNAP work requirement

New York City, the District of Columbia and 13 states are suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture over a strict new work requirement rule that could strip federal food assistance from nearly 700,000 people. The new rule makes it harder for states to get waivers from work requirement regulations, even in areas where unemployment is high or where jobs are scarce.  CNN’s Caroline Kelly reports: 

Citing a federal statute against agency actions that are “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law,” the lawsuit alleges that “the Rule conflicts with the federal statute, the purpose of SNAP, and the clear intent of Congress to alleviate hunger and malnutrition while maintaining States’ flexibility.”

LBP anti-hunger policy advocate Danny Mintz explained the new rule in a recent op-ed for The Advocate. 

ACA reduces racial disparities in access to care
Coverage expansion through the Affordable Care Act has led to historic reductions in racial disparities in access to health care, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund. Five years after the landmark health care law was implemented, black adults living in states that expanded Medicaid have coverage rates and access to care that are as good or better than white adults in non-expansion states. The authors look at two Southern states with large black populations -Louisiana and Georgia – to illustrate the potential effects of further Medicaid expansion. 

Louisiana chose to expand Medicaid in 2016, while Georgia has yet to do so. As the exhibit shows, white and black adults with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level (which is $24,980 for an individual and $51,500 for a family of four in 2020) experienced coverage gains from 2013 to 2015 in both states. But after Louisiana expanded Medicaid in July 2016, uninsured rates for both groups dropped an additional 12.2 points to 16.0 points. Georgia’s uninsured rates, meanwhile, did not improve after 2016 (Table 5). Because an estimated 54 percent of black working-age adults in Louisiana have low incomes (Table 1), Medicaid expansion helped drive the state’s overall black adult uninsured rate down to 11.3 percent in 2018 (Table 5). This was lower than the rate for black adults (19.2%) and white adults (14.9%) in Georgia.

The case for third-grade reading

Barely more than half (53%) Louisiana children are proficient at reading by the end of third grade – a key benchmark for future academic success and post-graduate career prospects. A report released this week by a state task force recommends spending an additional $15 million per year to give teachers better tools and training, and to strengthen the state’s accountability system to ensure that children who struggle get earlier interventions. The Advocate’s Will Sentell

It said school districts should implement comprehensive literacy assessment plans used at various times in the school year and that teachers should employe literacy assessment data to monitor student progress. The report says that, during the 2020-21 school year, officials of the state Department of Education should work with local school systems to select, train and place literacy coaches in all kindergarten through second grade schools. 

Number of the Day

43% – The increase in foreclosure starts in 2019 in the Baton Rouge metro area. This was the largest increase among the nation’s largest metros. (Source: Baton Rouge Business Report