Louisiana lags in wage growth

Louisiana lags in wage growth

Wages for Louisiana workers grew by an average of 2% during the first quarter – among the lowest gains in the country and well below the national average of 4.8%. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that only Alaska, Washington and Hawaii experienced wage growth at or below Louisiana’s level. David Jacobs of the Baton Rouge Business Report explains: 

Jan Moller with the left-leaning Louisiana Budget Project says Louisiana workers historically have received lower average wages than in other states, which helps explain why the state is still lagging. He says the state’s housing market seems to have cooled off a bit more than in other states. Louisiana also is overrepresented in the accommodations and food services sector, which recently saw wages decline. Louisiana’s relatively poor population was also impacted more greatly by the end of federal pandemic benefits, Moller adds. “You’re starting from a much smaller base,” he says.

Chaos in juvenile justice
Children in Louisiana who are locked up in one of the two state-run juvenile detention centers could be subjected to tasers and pepper spray, according to internal documents uncovered by The Advocate. James Finn reports that such measures are typically reserved for adult prisons and off-limits for children, where the focus is supposed to be on rehabilitation. 

(T)he decision to allow use-of-force techniques from adult facilities inside the youth lockups alarmed some attorneys, advocates and experts, who said it was highly unusual. “The way to understand these policies is that they’re a threat of increased use-of-force on children in facilities that are supposed to be helping children and rehabilitating children,” said Aaron Clark-Rizzio, executive director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. “If there is too much fear and violence within these facilities, they’re not going to help that by introducing more fear and more violence.”

There is no indication that such tactics have actually been used; they are simply authorized. The state’s juvenile facilities are badly understaffed and have experienced a string of escapes and brawls in recent months. At least two Louisiana children have been moved to juvenile facilities in Alabama – moves that were made without notifying the childrens’ parents or their lawyers. 

New road fees for hybrid and electric vehicles
Automotive manufacturers’ effort to phase out the internal combustion engine and state lawmakers’ refusal to raise the state’s gasoline tax in more than 30 years has left Louisiana with a shrinking fuel tax base. But lawmakers this past session sought to make up for this by passing legislation that charges road usage fees for hybrid and electric car owners in the state. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller explains how the new fees will be structured: 

The new fees are $60 for each hybrid and $110 for each electric vehicle registered in the state. Electric and hybrid school buses that transport students are exempt. … The Louisiana Department of Revenue is in charge of establishing rules to handle the payments and collections of the fees. One likely option lawmakers discussed is for vehicle owners to pay the fees through their individual state income tax filings.  According to the bill, 70% of the tax proceeds will go toward road and bridge projects slated in the Department of Transportation’s Highway Priority Program. The remaining 30% will be deposited into the Parish Transportation Fund for use by local governments.

While House Bill 1031 by Rep. Barbara Freiberg passed with bipartisan support, many lawmakers were under the (false) impression that hybrid vehicle owners do not have to pay any fuel taxes.

In an Illuminator interview, Simon Mahan with the Southern Renewable Energy Association explained hybrids run on a gasoline motor assisted simultaneously by an electric motor. As Cathey said, Mahan confirmed that most hybrids currently available are essentially just efficient gasoline vehicles. The driver doesn’t have a switch or a button to choose between gasoline and electricity, though some cars in the new category of “plug-in hybrids” run on electricity until the batteries are depleted, at which point the gasoline engine serves as a backup and takes over, he 

Formula shortage highlights WIC’s critical role in feeding babies 
Baby formula has been scarce since a recall and prolonged production shutdown at an Abbott Nutrition manufacturing plant. This shortage, which is having a disproportionate effect on low-income families, has highlighted the role of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which supports health care and nutrition of low-income women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children under 5. A new report by Zoe Neuberger, Katie Bergh and Lauren Hall of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains how competitive bidding for the program creates wide-ranging benefits for all children and parents. 

For infant formula manufacturers, winning a WIC contract results in purchases increasing among non-WIC participants as well as WIC participants. This could reflect wide availability of their product, favorable shelf space in stores, samples or recommendations provided by health care providers, and/or word of mouth. The increase in WIC brand purchases arises even for formulas, like toddler formulas, that are not typically available through WIC. Estimates suggest that sales to non-WIC participants in a state might double or triple when a manufacturer wins a WIC contract in that state. …  As a result, even though bidding is entirely voluntary, manufacturers routinely compete aggressively on WIC contracts and offer substantial rebates. Nationwide, the competitive bidding process yields $1 billion to $2 billion a year in rebates. (See Figure 2.) The 2021 savings of $1.6 billion were enough to provide WIC benefits to more than 2 million low-income women, infants, and young children.

Number of the Day
21.3 million
– Number of paper tax returns that are still waiting to be processed by the Internal Revenue Service. Years of budget cuts and worker attrition, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, have decimated the IRS workforce. (Source: Washington Post