Making the poor pay more

Making the poor pay more

The Louisiana legislative session doesn’t kick off until April 12, but lawmakers have been meeting for months behind closed doors to come up with plans for repairing our state’s tax structure. David Jacobs of The Center Square reports that Sen. Bret Allain, who chairs the tax-writing Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, wants to “simplify” the state’s tax code in an effort to improve Louisiana’s rankings with conservative anti-tax organizations like the Tax Foundation and the Council on State Taxation:

“We charge taxes on people and in some cases give the money back,” he said, naming the business inventory tax that most states don’t charge as an example. “We get scored very poorly for charging tax on inventory to start with, but we get no credit as a state for giving the money back.”

While Louisiana’s tax structure is undeniably too complex and riddled with loopholes, proposals for “simplifying” taxes are often just an excuse to cut personal income taxes while asking more of the poorest. This has the effect of making Louisiana’s already regressive tax system even worse for poor and working Louisianans, as LBP’s Jackson Voss explains:

Louisiana relies heavily on sales taxes, which hit poor families the hardest, while our income tax comes with lucrative deductions that mainly benefit the richest households. Moving to a flat tax or eliminating the income tax altogether would make this problem worse – shifting the responsibility for paying taxes from those who can most afford it to families that are already struggling. Because the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow have left Black Louisianans poorer than white Louisianans overall, this would also mean raising taxes on Black people while cutting them for white people. 

Energy at a crossroads
President Joe Biden’s executive orders halting oil and gas exploration on federal land and in the Gulf of Mexico have drawn howls from the oil and gas industry and its supporters in Louisiana politics. But as Clifford Krauss writes in the New York Times, the fossil fuel sector has been on an inexorable slide for several years, and American firms have lagged behind their European counterparts in planning for the future:

The oil industry is slowly transitioning to a future dominated by cleaner energy. BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and other European companies are investing considerable resources in offshore wind and solar energy while cutting back on oil. … The American oil majors have been far slower to pivot from fossil fuels, but they are feeling increasing pressure from investors to change their business models. Exxon said this week that it was investing $3 billion in a new business called Low Carbon Solutions, which will initially focus on carbon capture and sequestration projects.

In what may be a bellwether for the auto industry at large, GM announced last week that it will transition entirely to zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

Putting Washington’s hands back on the vaccine steering wheel
State health officials from several states, including Louisiana, testified before a U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Tuesday that states can handle more vaccine doses, but need clearer federal guidance and more funding for distribution, reported the Louisiana Illuminator’s Laura Olson. Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Courtney Philips emphasized that the state needs flexibility to distribute doses more broadly when members of priority populations refuse to take the vaccine:

[Phillips] told lawmakers Tuesday that Louisiana has been able to pull back unused doses from the nursing home program, boosting the state’s allotment for other residents. The Louisiana Department of Health confirmed that the state was reallocating 15,600 of its 93,000 doses meant nursing homes and long-term care facilities to health care providers that serve the general population. “Doing so has allowed us to be able to push more into the community, and not have vaccines sitting anywhere, so that added flexibility has been greatly appreciated,” Phillips said.

While this flexibility is helpful and Louisiana has steadily improved its distribution of Covid vaccines, the rollout has been plagued by some concerning results, as Sam Karlin, the Advocate has written: 

Data released last week from the state showed only about a quarter of Louisiana’s nursing home workers who had been offered the vaccine accepted the shots, while 69% of residents took advantage of the immunizations.

More Covid variant cases detected in Louisiana
While Covid cases in Louisiana are on the decline, health officials have found two more cases of the more infectious U.K. variant in Louisiana,
reports Emily Woodruff in The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate. The presence of these variants has public health officials warning that the pandemic is far from over for Louisiana:

“I believe we have another spike in our future before this pandemic is over for us” said Dr. Joe Kanter, interim assistant secretary of the Office of Public Health. “And I think that’s going to be because of the B.1.1.7 variant.”

Other more infectious variants circulating in the United States, such as the South African and Brazilian variants, have not yet been found in Louisiana.

Number of the Day:
487,705 – The total number of Covid-19 vaccination doses administered in Louisiana, as of Feb. 3. All currently available vaccines require two doses to provide immunity. According to the state, 103,658 Louisianans have completed the vaccination series. (Source: Louisiana Department of Health)