The state budget is on the ballot

The state budget is on the ballot

Louisiana voters face two amendments on their Election Day ballots. – No. 4 and No. 5  – that could have a harmful and long-lasting effect on state and local budgets by hampering the ability of elected officials to fund essential services. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate recommends that voters reject them.  

Amendment 4: budget restriction – No
Louisiana formally has a budget restriction amendment. This is another version by anti-government legislators who have been unable to convince their peers that drastically cutting services — the result of budget limits — is a good idea in a poor state that needs more spending on education, health and other needs, not wants. We want to see wiser spending, but we don’t want to see arbitrary limits on the budget.

Amendment 5: corporate tax payments — No
If you’re a politician, you want to spend as much money as you can for four years, to get reelected. That’s the kind of short-term thinking that underlies the “payments in lieu of taxes,” or PILOT proposals like this one. Corporate interests would be delighted to trade cash upfront to shed long-term obligations like property taxes, and local politicians will be easy marks for these deals.

LBP Executive Director Jan Moller highlights what’s at stake in the proposals in LBP’s guide to the constitutional amendments.

 

Will lack of stimulus impact voters?
It’s been more than seven months since Congress passed the last coronavirus stimulus bill. Since then, unemployment numbers have remained staggeringly high, while enhanced unemployment benefits have been cut. An eviction crisis looms as national, state and local eviction bans are set to expire in the coming months, and cash-strapped states haven’t received additional aid they desperately need to make investments in vital services that keep citizens safe. But as USA Today’s Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes report, Congress’ inaction isn’t a main issue driving voters’ decisions at the ballot box.  

“There is only a very small pool of undecided and persuadable voters,” he [Political scientist James Simmons of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh] added, noting the differences in how Republicans and Democrats have viewed the coronavirus pandemic. “The nation and Wisconsin itself is so polarized that it’s almost as if we see events through different glasses. Two different worlds.” John Hudak, a Brookings Institution senior fellow in governance studies, said the relief package might not play as heavily on voters’ minds as party politics. “People tend to vote on partisanship first and less so on their pocketbook,” he explained. The lack of a stimulus package, he said “is not necessarily going to have much of an impact on the outcome of the election,” rather feeding into a “view that Washington is dysfunctional” already held by many voters.

 

Managing stress on Election Day
If you’re like 68% of Americans, the presidential election is a significant source of stress in your life. And unlike past elections, we may not know the results on Tuesday night. This combination of stress and uncertainty makes it extremely important that we take time to focus on our mental health. The New York Times’ Katherine Cusumano explains

“We’re seeing a huge increase in the need for mental health services,” said Eva Escobedo, a therapist specializing in relationship issues at Just Mind, a counseling center in Austin, Texas. With the pandemic keeping many families apart, the usual rallying points — like shared love of a sports team — have frayed. “One of the very few things that remains, and not only remains but is heightened, is our political standing,” Ms. Escobedo said. “I think that people are way more polarized even within their families and essential groups than they ever have been before.”

CNBC’s Cory Stieg has five activities, including taking a break from the news, to combat stress while awaiting election results: 

When faced with uncertainty, it’s only natural to want to seek out as much information as possible to gain answers. But in the case of the election, the APA says that one of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to limit your news intake. To set boundaries, you can designate 30 minutes to read social media or the news and set a timer so you don’t go overboard. Or, you can choose to watch your go-to news program on-demand at a time when you’re feeling mentally prepared.  

 

Commitment to each other
Best-selling New York Times author Sharon Salzberg once stated: “Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country, and this world.” This has been a contentious election, and the results may not be known on Election Night. But we need to remain committed to each other after Tuesday, as we navigate our way through a pandemic, a tough recovery and uncertain years ahead. The Lakeland Ledger’s editorial board explains

Whether Trump or Biden wins, we must all remain committed to excellence in our schools and slowing the spread of COVID-19. Our taxes must be paid and we’ll want to know how the money is spent. The health of our waters, the condition of our roads are issues where we can and must come together, rather than letting the presidential race rip us apart. There could be no worse fate than for “team red” and “team blue” to decide ideological loyalties are so important they won’t work with neighbors on local concerns.  So let’s not go there. This is an important election, for sure. It might be among the most important of our lives. But that’s the case not just because of who’s on the ballot — but how we’ll move forward when the balloting is done.

 

Number of the Day
99.7 million – Number of Americans who voted early in 2020. This is nearly three-quarters of all the votes cast in 2016. (Source: U.S. Elections Project via The New York Times)