Gov. John Bel Edwards is proposing to spend an additional $25.1 million to provide early care and education for low-income children from birth to age 3, in the budget year that starts July 1. The $32.2 billion proposed state budget calls for an overall state spending increase of $285 million, including new investments in public schools, public colleges and universities, college tuition scholarships and juvenile justice. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne’s presentation to a House-Senate committee kicks off annual negotiations on Louisiana’s spending priorities—negotiations that must be wrapped up before the Legislature adjourns by June 1. Melinda Deslatte reports for the AP:
Edwards’ recommendation is a wish list of sorts. The governor used income projections that aren’t included in Louisiana’s official revenue forecast because the Legislature’s new Republican leaders wouldn’t adopt them. That includes billions of dollars that agencies expect to receive from fees, fines and other revenue sources, along with a $103 million increase in tax collections that economists anticipate will arrive in the treasury.
This year’s budget debate, like last year’s, is clouded by an ongoing impasse between the governor and legislative leaders over the official revenue estimate. Without an official revenue forecast in place, Dardenne presented the administration’s spending priorities based on the Division’s revenue projections.
Doing (extra) time cost millions
Louisiana has wasted millions of dollars since 2012 keeping people imprisoned after their sentences have already expired. That’s according to court documents filed by civil rights advocates who blame the problem on bungling by overburdened corrections officials who miscalculated release dates and moved paperwork slowly through antiquated processes. They estimate that people in Louisiana served a collective 3,000 years behind bars past their scheduled release date, since 2012. The Advocate’s Lea Skene and Jacqueline DiRobertis have the scoop:
(Department of Corrections) leaders have acknowledged the significance of the problem but argue it can’t be solved overnight, in part because there are several moving parts that factor into when an inmate is released, including good time credits that get people earlier parole eligibility when they complete rehabilitation programs. The process also involves an antiquated system for transferring paperwork from one agency to another, often requiring records to be physically driven across the state and hand delivered.
The critical importance of the Census
Census data—the result of a massive effort to count every U.S. resident every 10 years—is critically important to determining how federal funds are allocated among states and local communities. But federal funding for this year’s count has lagged funding over the last two cycles, putting an accurate count at risk. An undercount in Louisiana would result in the state being shortchanged on federal funds. LSU Sociology Professor Tim Slack explains in The Advocate why it’s so important for Louisianans to submit their census forms this year:
In the 2010 Census, about 75% of households in the state mailed back their questionnaires. This meant that for 25% of households, the Census Bureau had to send someone out to try to find people at their homes. Without greater self-response in the 2020 Census, Louisianans risk going uncounted, which has negative implications for their communities in terms of political representation and the transfer of federal funds.
Reentry program (mostly) successful
Preparing for a successful transition to life after prison takes planning. Two years after passing landmark criminal justice reform, Louisiana has invested $8.7 million in reentry services, according to the Department of Corrections. A new report by LSU professor Brianne Painia, commissioned by the Urban Congress for African American Males in Baton Rouge, finds that a prerelease program offered by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections has been mostly successful, but that many people incarcerated in local jails with minimal DOC oversight haven’t seen the same benefits of people incarcerated in state prisons. Jacqueline DeRobertis of The Advocate reports:
Painia said that, overall, their results show the program is working. Several modifications may be needed to improve the resources available — such as ensuring inmates leave with a trade skill and updating old technology — but these were minor adjustments intended to enhance the course, rather than correct it. “We were trying to be as fair as possible based off of what we saw,” Painia said. “The consensus was, yes, this is a really helpful program. They’re doing well with preparing people to reintegrate into the community.”
Number of the Day
$125 million – Total increase in spending on education programs proposed in the governor’s budget. (Source: AP)