The Louisiana Legislature is considering corporate tax cuts and giveaways worth hundreds of millions of dollars this special session. Several of the bills seek to expand programs that have a poor return on the state’s investment, like the Quality Jobs Program and New Market Tax Credits. A new blog by LBP policy analyst Neva Butkus reviews the bills:
The Covid-19 pandemic has knocked a $1 billion hole in Louisiana’s revenues for the 2020-21 budget year. Federal relief dollars are offsetting much of that shortfall, but these dollars are temporary and there is no guarantee that more assistance will be coming from Washington in the future. These are precarious financial times, and Louisiana should not be making its revenue shortfalls even worse by giving out new tax breaks without any evidence that they will grow the economy or create jobs. Instead of repeating the mistakes that drove Louisiana’s budget into the ditch after Hurricane Katrina, the Legislature should hit the pause button for now and return to the Capitol next spring prepared to do real tax reform.
Taking away health coverage during a health crisis
The Louisiana Budget Project, healthcare leaders and advocates for public health are asking Attorney General Jeff Landry to drop Louisiana from the lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Taking away healthcare coverage from people is always a bad idea, but it’s an especially bad idea during a global pandemic. The ACA ushered in Medicaid expansion, which provides coverage to more than 500,000 Louisianans and is even credited with re-opening formerly shuttered emergency rooms. From our letter:
Since its enactment in 2010, the ACA has brought many improvements to the national health care system, including Medicaid expansion for low income adults, a private health insurance marketplace with federal subsidies for low and moderate income Americans, and numerous patient protections, including the ability of young adults to remain on their parent’s insurance and coverage of pre-existing conditions. The pre-existing condition guarantee has become even more critical now that insurers would likely consider Covid-19 a pre-existing condition for tens of thousands of Louisianans.
Make it a movement, not a moment
White Americans seem to be reckoning with systemic racism and white privilege on a scale that was not seen after the killings of Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin and others at the hands of the police. But Cleveland Spears III worries that the demands for progress will wither after the protests end and hashtags stop trending. Spears writes in The Advocate:
As I scroll through my timelines, I continue to see my friends saying that they are tired and exhausted. But let me explain that one, as it is less obvious than our fear of police. The phrase refers to the energy, brain space, and mental capacity it takes to be Black in America. The energy it takes to think and rethink everything you say to ensure you don’t come off as too Black to your White counterparts, while at the same time not wanting to sell out your community to conform to White expectations. The energy it takes to ensure that you aren’t making White people uncomfortable constantly. The energy it takes to continually read news and statistics reminding you of how hard it is to be Black. The energy it takes to learn that Black women are three times more likely to die in childbirth, and Black people live five years less than their White counterparts. It hits you that the stress of carrying our blackness that we love so much every day is literally and statically killing us.
Polluting in a pandemic
The Environmental Protection Agency has stopped cracking down on companies that cite Covid-19 as the reason for not monitoring the pollution from their industrial plants. Following EPA’s lead, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has fast-tracked numerous waivers to industrial companies, allowing them to pollute the communities around them at higher levels at a time when the public is at risk from a novel respiratory illness. Wesley Muller of the Louisiana Illuminator has more:
A search of LDEQ records since April 1 shows 22 variance or permit modification requests from industrial facilities. All the requests cite COVID-19 as the reason the company cannot follow normal environmental requirements, and, in every instance, LDEQ granted the requested variance or permit modification. One company, Indigo Minerals, is responsible for half of the 22 permit waivers, covering 12 of its facilities across Louisiana. The waivers allow the company to store natural gas condensate in temporary storage tanks. (The condensate is a liquid byproduct of natural gas extraction.) The LDEQ approved many of the 22 requests within weeks — and sometimes days — of receiving them. Obtaining variances and permit modifications can often be a lengthy process. LDEQ has sometimes taken years to grant them. The state’s environmental agency’s response to the pandemic has effectively allowed industrial facilities, manufacturers and other businesses to operate with fewer restrictions than their permits would otherwise allow.
Number of the Day
138,000 – The number of years of human life before the age of 65 that Americans have lost due to Covid-19 deaths. (Source: Vox)