In years past, legislators would still be putting the finishing touches on the state budget in the waning days – and sometimes hours – of the legislative session. But when it came to distributing an unprecedented amount of state and federal revenue through this year’s budget process, lawmakers made all the major decisions quickly, behind closed doors. Now, the only remaining drama is whether Gov. John Bel Edwards will exercise his line-item veto authority to kill individual spending priorities that he doesn’t like – and, if so, whether the Legislature will vote to overturn those vetoes. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard previews the veto showdown, including a disagreement on the very parliamentary procedure lawmakers are trying to use:
“If he does line-item veto, there’s still an option for the bodies to reconsider what the governor may do while we’re still in session,” said Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, the Houma Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, where the budget bills originate. That may not be as easy as it sounds, says Matthew Block, the governor’s executive counsel. Article III, Section 18 of the state Constitution sets a 10-day deadline for a governor act on a bill once it’s finally passed, and 12 days to return a veto message while the Legislature is in session. The Constitution also sets an override session 40 days after final adjournment, unless declined by a majority of lawmakers, “to consider all bills vetoed by the governor.” Block emphasizes “all bills.”
Making kids’ health coverage affordable
Hundreds of thousands of people could become eligible for more affordable health insurance if the White house is successful in revising rules for Obamacare tax credits. A ‘family glitch’ in current federal rules meant people whose company-sponsored family coverage was unaffordable did not qualify for federal marketplace subsidies. The Washington Post’s Ann Carrns explains the glitch and its harmful effects on families.
The problem is that the affordability test doesn’t take into account the cost of insuring the whole family. “It only considers coverage for the actual employee,” said Jodi Ray, director with Florida Covering Kids & Families, an initiative at the University of South Florida College of Public Health that works to enroll uninsured people in affordable health coverage. “It really disadvantages people.” … The glitch means that families end up paying higher and less affordable premiums for the job-based health insurance — or skipping coverage altogether.
Congress should prioritize children and low-paid workers
In order to stem some of the massive revenue losses from slashing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, the Trump 2017 tax law included a tax increase on businesses related to the treatment of research and experimentation expenses. But corporate lobbyists are trying to delay implementation of this increase either in a potential economic package or legislation to make America more globally competitive. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Chuck Marr urges lawmakers to make a deal that supports workers and families, not just corporate interests:
Congress shouldn’t place corporate tax interests ahead of two other tax priorities: delivering the full Child Tax Credit to the children who need it most and strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) so the federal government no longer taxes low-paid workers into, or deeper into, poverty. Instead, lawmakers should put the Child Tax Credit and EITC improvements in the same bill as the corporate tax provision. That’s what they did when they reached a bipartisan compromise on a 2015 bill that paired Child Tax Credit and EITC improvements with a permanent extension of a separate R&E provision (a tax credit) and other corporate provisions.
Anti-fraud unit piled huge fines on poor and disabled
A little-known anti-fraud unit in the U.S. government levied unprecedented fines as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars without due process on more than 100 beneficiaries, including many poor, elderly and disabled individuals that had no ability to pay. As the Washington Post’s Lisa Rein explains, the moves by lawyers inside the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General’s office disregarded regulations, failed to take into account important factors – like age, ability to pay and intent – in determining penalties and created tumult when a whistleblower was targeted for retaliation.
A Chicago woman was fined $132,000 after wrongly receiving as much as $10,618 in benefits, according to internal data of penalties and assessments obtained by The Post. A Denver woman was sanctioned $168,000 after cashing as much as $14,960 in wrongly received checks. A New Jersey woman is on the hook for nearly $435,000 after she accepted about $47,000 in benefits but failed to report a $120,000 house she inherited from her father and car loans she co-signed for her children, on what she said was a lawyer’s advice. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who leads the government operations panel on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, called the penalties “a cheap, easy way of getting enforcement up.” “These cases are not willful crimes,” he said. “Shouldn’t the punishment fit the crime?”
Acting Social Security Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi will launch a full investigation on Monday of the unprecedented fines levied by the Inspector General’s anti-fraud program.
Didja Know Podcast?
The latest episode of LBP’s Didja Know? Podcast dropped on Monday morning. Click here to hear Executive Director Jan Moller and Economic Policy analyst Jackson Voss recap the Legislature wrapping up its budget deliberations and how lawmakers erred by not directing some of the money to Louisiana families struggling to pay their bills.
Number of the Day
$35,000 – Average federal student loan debt per borrower in Louisiana (Source: Department of Education via the Washington Post)