Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive budget conspicuously failed to include $86 million in badly needed funding for early childhood education, and advocates are hoping that tax revenue generated by legalized sports betting can be dedicated to that purpose. But a group of conservative lawmakers think they have a better idea. Led by Rep. Blake Miguez, the new “Bullets for Babies (BFB)” legislative coalition seeks to dedicate sales tax money generated from bullets, assault rifles and other firearms-related purchases to early care and education programs. LBP has the scoop in a new blog:
“We love babies and we love high-capacity semi-automatic weapons, not necessarily in that order,” Miguez said. “So we thought, why not combine these two priorities. It’s a true win-win.” Rep. Dodie Horton said she was skeptical at first, but embraced the concept as soon as she learned it would be revenue-neutral. “I think BFB is a BFD,” Horton said. But the idea drew immediate fire from Public Affairs Research Council President Robert Travis Scott. “We’re not too concerned about babies or bullets, but these tax dollars should not be dedicated. And whatever the hell you do, don’t put it in the state constitution.”
Edwards spokeswoman Christina Stephens said the governor may or may not include the plan in his bill package, which may or may not be released before the session. She added that Edwards would prefer to have the bill turned into a study resolution that would complete its recommendations in time for the 2024 regular session.
The rigged economy
Covid-19 has meant economic instability for many families. Nearly 80 million people lost their jobs and struggled to keep food on the table, a roof over their head and afford basic necessities. But some people have done very well. A new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) found that billionaires grew their wealth by 44% during the pandemic. Lina Batarags of the Business Insider has more on how billionaires have gained even more wealth while so many suffered over the past year:
The difference between how America’s richest people and the rest of the country has fared in this time period is stark. From March 2020 to February 2021, 80 million people in the US lost their jobs. Between June and November 2020, nearly 8 million Americans fell into poverty. “The pandemic has created an astonishing rise in wealth for the nation’s billionaires while tens of millions of Americans fell further behind,” Frank Clemente, executive director of ATF, said in a statement. “Billionaires are living in a different world from the rest of us.
Mad as hell about minimum wage
Joyce Barnes is a 62-year-old home health care worker who works two jobs that pay under $10 per hour. Because the minimum wage is far below a living wage, Barnes is forced to work long hours, with no days off and a weekly grocery budget of just $25. She dreams of one day having enough money to buy a steak in the grocery store and take a vacation to New Orleans to walk Bourbon Street. NPR’s Alina Selyukh reports on Ms. Joyce’s and others life as a minimum wage worker in America:
A few years ago, her teenage grandson got a janitorial job. “Nanny, you know how much I get paid?” he asked Barnes. He showed her the paycheck: $10.50 an hour, more than his grandmother made at either of her jobs. “I looked at him, my whole face dropped,” Barnes says. “I said, ‘Oh, baby, that’s so good.’ But all along, I was mad as hell.”If she did get a big raise, Barnes says she would probably cut back on her crazy hours, take a few days off, maybe even make it a vacation. When was the last time this happened? Maybe six years ago, she says, then catches herself, remembering: She took that time off because she’d landed in the hospital.
North Lake Charles is still struggling
Lake Charles was hit hard by Hurricanes Laura and Delta last fall. While the recovery is underway, leaders and citizens of the predominantly Black north side of town still say their needs aren’t being heard. They gathered recently to hear from parish leaders and criticized the limited response from their local Congressman Clay Higgins. John Guidroz of the American Press has more:
District F City Councilman Craig Marks said Higgins, R-Port Barre, has not addressed the needs of Southwest Louisiana residents impacted by the hurricanes.“We are struggling here, and everyone knows it,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to reach out. That’s our connection to Washington. He should be here on our behalf. He hasn’t been here.”Tyrone Glover, a community outreach coordinator for Higgins, who represents Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional district, said the congressman was in Southwest Louisiana the day after Hurricane Laura. He said he will relay the comments to Higgins’ office.
Number of the Day
60% – The percentage of the public that says racism is a major problem in the United States in 2020. This is an 11 percentage-point spike since 2015. (Source: The Commonwealth Fund)