The Wallace grain elevator

The Wallace grain elevator

The tiny, majority-Black settlement of Wallace, on the west bank of St. John the Baptist Parish, has become deeply divided over a proposed new grain elevator. As The Advocate’s Roshaun Higgins reports, the allure of much-needed new jobs come with the prospect of backroom deals by politicians that would give away millions of local tax dollars, pollution that harm peoples’ health and cultural desecration: 

Instead of paying taxes on the property’s assessed value, Greenfield would pay the parish just $4 million this year and another $2 million each year beginning in 2025 or whenever the elevator begins operating, under an agreement first reported by The Lens. The deal would last for 30 years; the parish could lose out on over $200 million in tax revenue during that time, according to a Together Louisiana analysis.  

A crisis center in crisis 
Aided by $6.5 million a year in property taxes, the Bridge Center for Hope opened in Baton Rouge with the goal of providing services for people struggling with addiction and mental health crises. But the Arizona-based corporation hired to run the facility has recently laid off staff and reduced patient capacity, claiming they aren’t receiving enough Medicaid reimbursement from the state. The Advocate’s Paul Cobbler explains:

Problems with reimbursement for Medicaid patients began at the time of the Bridge Center’s opening because crisis services were not covered for Medicaid members in Louisiana at the time. LDH finalized a service design for these members in March of this year, but prior to that, those services were not covered by Medicaid and LDH did not have an agreement in place to reimburse for those services, according to a statement from LDH.  The rate for LDH’s reimbursement is also too low for RI International to fully fund the care it was providing, and the center did not have access to a database to determine Medicaid membership prior to gaining access on Wednesday, which has led to further losses, (Director Charloitte) Claiborne said. 

Reviving an old idea
State Rep. Richard Nelson is hardly the first policymaker who’s had the idea of eliminating Louisiana’s income tax. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell spent more than a decade in the state Senate pushing for an oil and gas processing tax, and based his unsuccessful 2007 gubernatorial run on that idea. He’s back this week in a letter to The Advocate explaining how it would work:

To cite one telling example, the giant Exxon refinery in Baton Rouge processes 98% “foreign” or out-of-state oil and 2% Louisiana oil, and we tax the 2%. I would replace the 12.5% severance tax with a lower processing tax, taking in all hydrocarbons processed in Louisiana. That would raise the revenue needed to replace the income tax and stimulate onshore drilling. Everyone but the major oil companies (making record profits) would gain.

Reality check: Even if such a tax could get the necessary support from the Legislature, it would likely produce diminishing returns over time as the world – including Louisiana – switches to cleaner energy sources. 

Sending kids to Angola
The Advocate’s editorial board agrees with children’s rights advocates and the federal government who are concerned about the state’s plan to send juvenile offenders to the maximum-security adult prison at Angola. Recent escapes from the Bridge City Center for Youth in Jefferson Parish has put political pressure on state and local officials, but the newspaper thinks the state should never have abandoned the “Missouri model” that focuses on rehabilitation over incarceration. 

Other states have problems with juvenile justice but they manage to deal with them without taking over the old Death Row building as a putatively isolated and supposedly temporary solution to escapes and outright riots at the existing juvie sites. The federal officials now looking over the shoulders of the Louisiana officials are registering concerns that everybody outside officialdom had with the Angola plan from the get-go. … The overall solution is a recommitment at the highest levels to the principles of rehabilitation in juvenile facilities, pioneered in Missouri years ago.

Number of the Day
70,000 – Approximate number of Louisianans that quit their jobs in July. This marked the first time in more than a decade that the state had at least 70,000 voluntarily leave their employment in consecutive months. (Souce: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via The Advertiser)