It’s time to raise the gas tax

It’s time to raise the gas tax

Louisiana hasn’t raised its gasoline tax in 32 years, and the current 20-cents-per-gallon levy doesn’t raise nearly enough revenue to tackle the state’s $15 billion backlog of transportation needs.  The Louisiana Legislative Auditor reports that the tax would be worth 41 cents today if it had kept up with inflation, bringing in $1.2 billion per year versus $600 million. But as’s Will Sentell explains, legislators refuse to address the problem despite repeated warnings that it will only get worse:

[Legislative Auditor Michael] Waguespack said the state’s ability to address road and bridge needs is also being hurt by more efficient vehicles and the expectation that electric vehicles will be a bigger presence in the future. Those two developments will mean $564 million less motor vehicle revenue for state projects in the next decade, he said. The report said the Legislature considered 12 attempts to increase or revamp motor fuel taxes between 2015-21, none of which passed.

Low morale among child welfare workers 
The men and women who investigate suspected cases of child abuse and neglect are overworked and underpaid, and some say there is a “toxic” workplace culture inside the state Department of Children and Family Services. Members of the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee learned about the agency’s woes during an oversight hearing sparked by recent high-profile mishaps, including the fentanyl overdose death of a 2-year-old. The Advocate’s Andrea Gallo reports:.  

Meanwhile, Stacey McPherson testified that she left her job as a Rapides Parish foster care worker in July after six years at the agency – and again, not because of salary. Instead, she left because she was sick of repeatedly complaining about problems at the job that weren’t addressed by her supervisors. McPherson said she felt punished for caring deeply about her work and that she was taken off cases when her supervisors told her she was “overly attached” to the children. When she put in her two-weeks’-notice, she said she was ordered not to have any contact with the children and families who she’d worked with for years. “We just sit in our office and do our work and we just hope to make it through that one day,” she testified. “Because every day is excruciating.”

Don’t put teens in Angola
A federal judge on Tuesday was warned of the consequences of moving children away from a troubled youth jail to a maximum security adult prison. Over the past year, the Bridge City Center for Youth in Jefferson Parish has experienced numerous escapes and other problems, prompting a federal lawsuit. But as The Advocate’s James Finn explains, experts and advocates of juvenile justice reform are critical of state officials’ unusual plan:  

“If you’re taking already stressed-out kids and placing them in an even more stressful environment, the reaction isn’t going to be what the state is hoping for,” said Dr. Monica Stevens, a psychiatrist and professor at Tulane University in New Orleans. In recent weeks, the move attracted anger from a swath of youth advocates, legal experts and former justice officials. Their concerns range from the legal — federal law bars youths from being incarcerated within sight or sound of adults, for instance — to the psychological: Some fear that Angola’s notoriety could cause the prison to be viewed as a badge of honor among teens who are moved there.

Commercializing Covid
As the United States moves toward a single, annual Covid shot similar to what people receive to prevent the flu, Americans will start losing access to free Covid tests, treatments and vaccines in the coming months as cold weather and more time spent inside drives up infection rates. Just last month the White House announced that it will stop sending free tests to Americans because of a lack of funding. Axios’ Caitlin Owens reports on how the commercialization of Covid treatments means more out of pocket costs and barriers to health care. 

Between the lines: Insurers may choose to limit who can access certain treatments, particularly antivirals, and different health plans may end up with different policies. … The bottom line: In the not-so-distant future, costs — including co-payments and deductibles — will become a much bigger consideration when someone needs COVID testing or treatment.

“Depending on how health plans decide to structure their cost-sharing … individuals will have to fully pay the cost out-of-pocket until they reach the deductible,” Tolbert said. “That will be a huge barrier to people being able to access these tests and treatments.”

Number of the Day
158 – Number of Louisianas that lived in ‘doubled-up households,’ per 10,000 people, in 2019. Doubling up, or living with others, because of economic hardship can have detrimental effects on families and children. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)