Budget bills start to move

Budget bills start to move

Lawmakers unveiled their $37 billion budget proposal on Monday that includes pay hikes for teachers and support staff and increased money for higher education, early childhood education and infrastructure. The House Appropriations Committee followed many of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ recommendations, but members bucked the governor’s request to sock away $500 million for a new toll bridge in Baton Rouge and increase state subsidies for local police and firefighters. While many legislators were supportive of how leadership dolled out more than $3 billion in extra cash, others warned about a looming fiscal cliff in the years ahead. The Lafayette Daily Advertiser’s Greg Hilburn reports

House Conservative Caucus Chairman Jack McFarland supported Monday’s budget proposal but warned about shortballs in two years when a temporary sales tax rolls off the books and a portion of funding from the vehicle sales tax is diverted from the general fund toward infrastructure. “We need to recognize some of the things being legislated today for funding may not and will not be able to be funded in two years,” said McFarland, R-Winnfield. But Zeringue said most of the state’s estimated $3 billion in windfall will be spent on one-time investments rather than recurring expenses. “The (permanent) budget growth is occurring primarily in teacher and higher ed raises,” he said, which equals about $200 million annually.

The Louisiana Budget Project, together with community partners, crafted A Recovery Agenda for Louisiana that recommends ways the state can invest its one-time resources in the people and communities that suffered the most from the pandemic and natural disasters. You are invited to a webinar on Friday April 22, at 12 p.m., where LBP and partner organizations will discuss how we can use surplus dollars to build stronger, more resilient homes and communities, train workers for the jobs of tomorrow, ensure young children have safe places to learn and grow while their parents work, and strengthen the safety net for families that fall on hard times. Register here

An advertisement for White Flight
The heavily-white Central school district in suburban Baton Rouge was carved out of the majority-Black school district in East Baton Rouge Parish 15 years ago. Now the legislator who made that happen is trying to redraw the district lines to exclude a new subdivision that is feeding Black students into the high-performing system. Sen. Bodi White’s Senate Bill 189 flew through the Senate and awaits action in the House. An Advocate editorial says the bill sends a bad signal to Black families – and to the rest of the country. 

(W)asn’t the desire for a stronger school system the reason for Central’s district to be created in the first place? It’s working, and now the specter of a predominantly Black subdivision brings out the worst in White and the other senators voting for this highly unusual bill. The new legislation is a gerrymander to limit, so far as the open housing laws allow, Black students moving into Central schools. Want an advertisement for Louisiana as the White-Flight State? Pass SB189.

Voting against the disability community
Legislation seeking to help people with disabilities get out of their lease when they no longer can access their homes was struck down by the House of Representatives. In a party-line vote, lawmakers rejected an attempt by Rep. Mandie Landry to allow disabled people to sue in small claims, municipal or parish courts for the right to break their lease, rather than in federal district court, which enforces the Fair Housing Act. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports

“You did just vote against the disability community,” state Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, told the majority members of the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee in the moments following the 3-11 vote that rejected her House Bill 257. … Landry said having access to smaller courts would allow easier and fairer resolution for tenants. Pursuing litigation in federal courts is an expensive proposition, she said, adding that the language of her proposal comes from three laws that allow people in other situations to file a lawsuit in a landlord-tenant dispute.

America has turned its back on its poorest families 
The expanded Child Tax Credit was arguably President Joe Biden’s single biggest policy success. The credit reduced child poverty by more than 25% – lifting 3.4 million children out of poverty – as families spent the vast majority of their monthly allowance on basic necessities such as food, utilities or shelter. Families lost this critical support when Congress failed to extend the credit in December. The New York Times’ Ezra Klein explains how America has turned its back on its poorest families. 

The moral heart of this shouldn’t be lost. There are ways to make it easier for poor parents to work or, if you must, more painful for them to remain unemployed. Condemning children to poverty shouldn’t be one of them. “There is this fundamental question of when, as a country, we’ll see the humanity in every child,” (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Sharon) Parrott said. “Leaving children in deep poverty is an unacceptable thing to do because we don’t trust, or want to punish, their parents.” Nor is inflation a reason to leave children in poverty. Extending the expanded child tax credit would cost about $100 billion per year for the next few years — less than 0.5 percent of U.S. G.D.P. And it could easily be paired with policies raising taxes or cutting spending elsewhere, making the overall impact on spending nil.

Number of the Day
– Average price of McDonald’s Big Mac in the United States. Fast food prices have increased more than 7.2% since last year, the biggest jump since 1981. (Source: Axios