Eight Louisiana parishes are among the 20 most flood-prone jurisdictions in the United States, according to a new report by the nonprofit First Street Foundation. As The Advocate’s Mike Smith reports, Louisiana occupies the first four spots on the list, with Jefferson and Orleans parishes particularly vulnerable to severe weather events. While the state has a 50-year master plan to combat coastal erosion, it may not be enough to safeguard the most vulnerable communities.
Another issue the state faces and which is likely to grow in importance as sea levels rise is when to move residents out of harm’s way with voluntary buyouts rather than continue to spend the money needed to protect especially vulnerable communities. Low-lying Cameron Parish, for example, has seen its population plummet to around 5,600 as hurricanes and storm surge have walloped it in recent years. Some have predicted that the parish could largely disappear by the end of the century if sea levels rise as dramatically as projected.
Columnist Stephanie Grace notes that the state’s economy is also starting to shift – slowly but inexorably – away from fossil fuels, even if the message hasn’t gotten through to most elected officials.
In the world we all actually live in, as (Gov. John Bel) Edwards said so bluntly, the transition [to renewable energy] is here and Louisiana is powerless to stop it. For anyone who cares about the state’s economy and its survival in an age of sea-level rise and extreme weather linked to climate change, the real question boils down to this: Why on earth would they want to?
Columnist Bob Marshall, who has been writing about Louisiana’s land loss for decades, notes three common objections he hears from readers – and why they are wrong.
Students on student loan debt
A columnist for the LSU Daily Reveille caused a kerfuffle recently by suggesting that students only have themselves to blame for rising levels of student-loan debt, citing spending on entertainment, fast-food and private tutoring among “frivolous” expenses that students incur. LSU sophomore Claire Sullivan pushes back with some facts about student hunger and housing insecurity – and the long-term costs of saddling students with massive debt.
The massive loan burden many bear for their education is not only a detriment to individuals but also to society as a whole. Student debt makes it harder for young people to buy homes, get married and have children—and never mind putting anything away for the future.
Basketball, politics and “quality jobs”
Louisiana’s Quality Jobs tax subsidy program drew headlines last week when the Louisiana Illuminator reported that state taxpayers are underwriting the New Orleans Pelicans’ payroll to the tune of $3.65 million per year. But that’s hardly the only tax giveaway where the state loses money. A 2020 legislative audit found that the program costs the state $140 million per year, and that most of the jobs that receive state subsidies would have come to Louisiana without the tax credit. Wesley Muller reports:
The auditors gave several recommendations to the Tax Institute on ways to reform the program, including requiring Louisiana Economic Development to report actual numbers of jobs created rather than estimates. They also recommended reinstating the requirement that Louisiana Economic Development perform a cost-benefit analysis on each applicant prior to approval. The legislature removed that requirement in 2002, leading to a 626% increase in Quality Jobs project approvals, according to the analysis.
The rent is too damned high
Rents are rising rapidly across the country – 10.3% in the third quarter alone for professionally managed properties – and that is putting a hard squeeze on many low-income families. While evictions remain well below pre-pandemic levels thanks to a federal moratorium and pandemic aid, Sophie Kasakove reports for The New York Times that rising rents, increasing corporate ownership of rental housing and a dwindling supply of affordable housing options are making it harder for people on the economic margins to make ends meet.
Low- and moderate-income renters in Atlanta have faced rising housing prices for years as areas gentrify and luxury housing replaces more affordable options. In 2019, nearly a quarter of renters in the city were paying more than half of their income on housing, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. Corporate landlords have bought up properties across the metro area, and research shows that they are more likely than other owners to evict tenants.
Number of the Day
17 – Number of Louisiana parishes that have never had a company qualify for a Quality Jobs tax subsidy. All but two have unemployment rates above the state average, and all but one has median wages below the state average (Source: Legislative Auditor via Louisiana Illuminator)