What will the next governor do?

What will the next governor do?

Gov. John Bel Edwards enters his final year in office having brought stability to the state budget that has allowed for new investments in education, health care and other priorities. But the temporary sales tax that helped provide that stability is expiring in 2025, while other sales-tax dollars are being shifted from the state general fund to help pay for road construction. That means his successor will likely face a significant fiscal cliff, making it harder to address longstanding problems such as entrenched poverty, an underfunded higher education system and the existential threat from climate change. As the next political season dawns, The Advocate’s Lanny Keller wonders: What will the next governor do?

There’s another rule of life in the State Capitol: Where you stand depends on where you sit. Our new governor will inevitably be balancing competing interests and structural realities of the job, such as the requirement to submit balanced budgets — when everybody, Republicans included — wants more money for their priorities. So here in the will-he discussion, what’s important is not the resume of the Republican, but what he — or she — will commit to doing in office. That will require specifics we don’t yet have from anybody.

Income volatility is barrier to SNAP benefits 
Families with more volatile incomes were less likely to receive benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to a new study from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. While SNAP has been an effective tool at fighting poverty, its benefits are designed to increase and decrease with changes to beneficiaries’ monthly income. This policy is harmful to many low-wage workers, such as seasonal or hospitality industry workers, whose hours – and paychecks – can fluctuate from month to month. USA Today’s Claire Thornton examines a program rule that undermines the people it is meant to help. 

In the U.S., having an unpredictable income is common. During 2020, almost 20% of households experienced a drop in income of 25% or more, according to the study. Seasonal workers and people in the service and hospitality industries are more susceptible to seeing their hours drastically scaled back or having a windfall of work. … “Income volatility is really pretty large, so we should expect that and design our policies in a way that can help these families,” said Hannah Rubinton, a St. Louis Federal Reserve economist and author of the study.

Anatomy of a defeat
Earlier this month Louisiana voters rejected a constitutional amendment to ban slavery and involuntary servitude. The vote came after the amendment’s legislative sponsor, Rep. Edmond Jordan, publicly stated that he planned to vote against the amendment and come back in 2023 with a different version. Lorena O’Neil, writing in a guest column for the Louisiana Illuminator, explains how Jordan’s decision came down to a single word in the ballot language, and the confusion that ensued. 

Jordan agreed to the additional language, and there was an ensuing discussion in which an advocate stressed that the word “except” should not be used in the bill.  “It’s so important that the word ‘except’ not appear in the same sentence as ‘slavery is prohibited,’” said Michael Calhoun from the Promise of Justice Initiative. “It sends a really powerful message and allows the people of Louisiana to reckon with their history in a meaningful way.” Once the subsection was added, the bill passed the House and Senate unanimously. The ballot language summarizing the bill included the word “except” to bring up the “otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.”

Officials grapple with how to spend opioid settlement dollars
State and local governments have won more than $50 billion in judgments from opioid makers as America continues to hold prescription drug distributors and pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic. Now leaders face the daunting task of allocating these settlement dollars. The Tradeoffs podcast examines the choices they face: 

[Sara Whaley] Her big concern is that local officials won’t invest the money in methods, like harm reduction or treatment, that have proved to save lives. “It’s not as easy as just putting the money towards evidence based programs,” she said. “There’s this unfortunate layer to it that some of this stuff is political and personal.” In other words, all that money is forcing officials to reckon with long-held beliefs and judgements about addiction. Is addiction a crime or is addiction an illness? Will officials look to build jails and hire more police or will they look to treatment models and care?

We’re hiring: The Louisiana Budget Project is seeking a Policy Analyst to work on state and federal policy issues that affect low-income Louisianans, with a focus on budget and tax issues. Click here to learn more and apply.

Number of the Day
– Percentage of adults who are covered by Medicaid or have a Medicaid-enrolled family member, but are unaware that Medicaid renewals will be restarting in the future. (Source: Urban Institute)