Nearly 25% of state aid to public schools goes to provide retirement security for current and former teachers – largely due to debts that were incurred by the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana in previous decades that is now being paid back. While traditional public schools are paying their fair share of these existing retirement costs, many charter schools are taking advantage of a state law that lets them skip out on that obligation. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports, state Sen. Jay Luneau thinks it’s time to level the playing field.
Permitting charter schools not to take part in the retirement system, which allows them to avoid helping pay off the retirement obligation, is especially troublesome, according to the vice-chairman of the Legislative Audit Advisory Council. “Maybe we need to revisit the statutes to make the system fairer,” said Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria. … Charter schools that are not part of the state retirement system generally pay into Social Security for their teachers, who also rely on a 401k-style setup for retirement. Luneau repeatedly asked why charter schools are allowed to avoid helping to pay off retirement costs by staying out of the state system.
Centralized sales tax heads to court
Louisiana voters last weekend rejected a constitutional amendment that sought to centralize the collection of state and local sales taxes under a new commission – a longtime priority for business organizations and conservative activists. Undaunted by the will of the voters, a group of right-wing organizations is now backing a lawsuit by an online retailer in Arizona that claims the state’s decentralized collections system is unconstitutional. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports:
Halstead Bead is represented by small-government, right-leaning groups including the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, the Pelican Institute for Public Policy and the Goldwater Institute. … Critics of the constitutional amendment pointed to uncertainty on the details of how the eight-member commission would work, because lawmakers still had to draft the specific regulations. They argued it would tie up sales tax collections in state bureaucracy. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell came out strongly in opposition to the proposal, arguing the commission could withhold sales taxes owed to municipalities when state officials are unhappy with local decisions. Halstead said in its lawsuit that it plans to limit its sales in Louisiana while the current sales tax collection regulations are in place.
The largest federal investment in public works since the 1950s became law on Monday when President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Surrounded by lawmakers from both parties, including Louisiana Sen. BIll Cassidy, Biden signed a bill that will send a minimum of $7.2 billion to Louisaina to address a massive backlog of construction needs. While the legislation is historic in nature, it’s not enough to make up for decades of neglect to public works. The AP’s Josh Boak reports.
Historians, economists and engineers interviewed by The Associated Press welcomed Biden’s efforts. But they stressed that $1 trillion was not nearly enough to overcome the government’s failure for decades to maintain and upgrade the country’s infrastructure. The politics essentially forced a trade-off in terms of potential impact not just on the climate but on the ability to outpace the rest of the world this century and remain the dominant economic power.
As The Advocate editorial board notes, the decision by Biden to put former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in charge of implementation of the bill will likely be a boon for Louisiana.
Sunday’s announcement that former Louisiana lieutenant governor and New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu will oversee the measure’s implementation makes it all the more likely that, despite opposition from Cassidy’s fellow Republicans in the congressional delegation, the state will fare well when the money is doled out and the projects get underway.
Paid leave saved my life
As the infrastructure bill became law, the Build Back Better social spending plan is still working its way toward final passage, albeit slowly. One remaining sticking point is paid leave, which was included in the original version, nixed by Sen. Joe Manchin, and then revised and reinserted into the House version by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. While this crucial policy may not be important to Manchin, Bess Kalb, writing in a guest column for the New York Times, explains how it saved her life.
The issue, for me, is quite personal. If I’d had only four weeks of paid leave after giving birth, I might be dead. And if I were dead my 2-year-old son would not have had a semi-handmade garbage truck costume for Halloween. … This is a story of extraordinary privilege that should be a basic human right. I am a member of a union that gives me health insurance covering all aspects of childbirth except for parking ($60 I’ll never let my son forget). And thanks to that same union, I had paid time off from work that enabled my unplanned surgical vacation and allowed me not to ignore my symptoms.
Join us today for the final installment in this year’s Racism: Dismantling the System speaker series, hosted by LBP and the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. Today’s discussion explores the impacts and legacy of social injustice on inequities in mental health. Details: November 16 at 3:30 p.m. Click here to reserve your space for the online event. You can also view this episode on LBP’s Facebook Livestream.
Number of the Day
3,040 – Number of U.S. counties that saw an increase in personal income growth in 2020. 91% of personal income growth last year resulted from direct federal covid relief payments (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)