Flawed budget bill requires improvements

Flawed budget bill requires improvements

The Louisiana House advanced a spending plan earlier this month that removes funding for teacher pay raises, early childhood education and infrastructure in order to pay down state retirement and pension debt. Conservatives in the lower chamber argue the advanced debt payments could free up local school districts to raise teacher pay, but the move also stems from not wanting to exceed a constitutional cap on spending. An Advocate editorial pokes holes in the House’s superficial plan and cautions the Senate not to fall for it. 

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, as well as heads of retirement systems, critique the House proposal as flawed on multiple levels — including its fundamental sales pitch, that school boards would be freed of so much in annual retirement payments that teacher pay raises like the ones proposed by the governor would be feasible at the local level. As Dardenne’s figures show, that’s not the case. … Another superficial appeal is that the new revenues under the House’s flawed plan would not exceed a cap long-ago set on growth in state spending. But the Louisiana Constitution wisely set up a two-thirds vote to suspend the cap in extraordinary circumstances, and this is surely that.

LBP state budget and tax policy analyst Paul Braun characterizes the House’s proposal as misplaced priorities. 

Where’s the beef in governor’s race?
In less than five months, Louisiana voters will begin the process of picking the state’s next chief executive. Whoever is picked to succeed Gov. John Bel Edwards will have a full plate of problems to address – poverty, education, economic development and coastal protection, just for starters – and limited resources at their disposal. So far, as The Advocate’s Ron Faucheux explains, the leading candidates have offered few specifics of what they would seek to do if elected. 

[Attorney General Jeff Landry] … wants to cut taxes and red tape, and says he supports “expanding broadband internet access.” But again, where are the details? … Landry’s website discusses a range of policies, which is good, but his focus is often on culture war issues that are national in scope. So far, he fails to offer a coherent plan for Louisiana, especially its economy. Shawn Wilson’s website (wilsonforla.com) features a slogan, “Together we can build Louisiana’s future,” which is a positive, unifying message. But is it backed by actionable ideas? Wilson says he will “build bridges, not burn them.” For a former state transportation secretary, that’s a fitting slogan, although we’re not sure which bridges he’s going to build and which ones he won’t burn. 

Using apprenticeships to address teacher shortage
Many states are using an apprenticeship model, which allows people to work while obtaining a bachelor’s degree in education, to address massive teaching shortages. While these programs have been around for some time, they were expanded by states during the pandemic with federal relief funds. Last year, the federal government also began offering the programs federal certification, which provides access to millions of dollars in job-training funds. The Washington Post’s Moriah Balingit explains how apprenticeship programs are helping to grow the teacher workforce in Mississippi: 

This year, the state is spending nearly $10 million to educate 200 trainees for its teacher residency, about $50,000 per person, in a program that covers the cost of tuition at one of five universities while allowing participants to work in school districts. It has already proven beneficial for school districts like the one in Sunflower County. “There will never be a long line of individuals who are lined up to move to the Mississippi Delta,” said Will Murphy, who manages hiring and recruitment for Sunflower County Consolidated School District, which, like many school systems in the Mississippi Delta, serves a student body that is overwhelmingly Black and poor. “We have to be intentional about growing people in our district and training up a next wave.”

Reality check: While other states are looking at ways to increase the number of people with bachelor’s degrees in education, Louisiana lawmakers are looking to address their state’s teacher shortage by, among other things, allowing people with two-year associate’s degrees to teach in public schools.

Real impact of state tax cuts
States tax cuts give away massive amounts of revenue each year that could be used to fund vital programs and services. But the impact of these costly giveaways aren’t just limited to state budget debates. As the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s Aidan Davis and Wesley Tharpe of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explain in a guest column for Route Fifty, the impact of these tax cuts go to the very core of our democracy. 

The debate over tax cuts that’s happening in statehouses across the country is about much more than revenues and spending. It’s a fight over whether we will have an inclusive democracy where everyone—all races in all places—can thrive, or a system rigged for the rich and powerful, a group that, because of our long history of racial discrimination and oppression, is disproportionately white and male. This year’s tax cut fever is part of a coordinated push to undermine state revenue systems and the people they support, especially low-income families and communities of color.

Correction: In Friday’s edition, the Daily Dime stated that House Bill 562 would gradually phase out the state’s film tax credit. But the legislation would phase out a provision that allows producers to sell their tax credits back to the state for 90 cents on the dollar. 

Number of the Day
6.8% – Percentage of Louisiana workers that were employed in the nonprofit sector from 2017 to 2021. The Pelican State ranked 43rd among the 50 states and Puerto Rico for the percentage of nonprofit workers. (Source: Washington Post)