Louisiana Republicans – fresh off an historic victory in the state’s gubernatorial primary and their first ever elected supermajority in the state Legislature- aim to undo as much of current Gov. John Bel Edwards’ legacy as possible. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue explains how the ascendance of Gov.-elect Jeff Landry and like-minded legislators will mean a hard-right turn in an already conservative state.
In the next term alone, three ultraconservative House members will be replacing centrist Republicans in the 39-member Louisiana Senate. Right-wing Reps. Valarie Hodges, Blake Miguez and Seabaugh are taking over seats from outgoing moderates Rogers Pope, Fred Mills and Louie Bernard, respectively. Conservative Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe, also managed to win a tough reelection campaign over well-funded, moderate Republican challenger Ned White.
The new leadership is expected to focus efforts on rolling back historic criminal justice reforms, advancing a new voucher system that could drain funding for public schools and making it easier for residents – in a state that has the highest rate of gun violence per capita – to purchase firearms and carry them without permits or training. If they choose to cut taxes, it could cause a budget disaster not seen since the last time Republicans occupied the Governor’s Mansion.
Conservative Republicans have also broached the topic of repealing the state income tax, though they haven’t explained what budget cuts they might make to replace the massive amount of revenue that would be lost. Louisiana already has several tax changes coming onto the books in 2025 that will constrain its finances. In that year alone, the state will see a 0.45% sales tax reduction and a number sales tax exemptions come back. More money could also be automatically diverted into a fund for transportation projects, meaning it could no longer be used for higher education and health care expenses.
Local earned income tax credits
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit – which goes mostly to low-income working families with kids – is one of the most effective tools available to fight poverty. Currently, 31 states, including Louisiana, and the District of Columbia have their own EITCs that supplement the federal credit. A new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy examines the benefits of refundable EITCS at the local level:
Refundable credits also help local governments address a longstanding inequity: upside-down tax codes. Local tax policies too often leave poorer residents paying a disproportionately large share of taxes, worsening economic divides within and across communities., Credits for households with low and moderate incomes can rebalance revenue systems by putting more dollars into the pockets of residents with limited financial means. Importantly, a local EITC can be effective whether or not a locality levies an income tax, as long as the credit is refundable.
Note: Louisiana’s EITC is the second-lowest among the states that have established their own credit. At 5% of the federal credit, the average payout of the state EITC in 2022 was $120.60. Efforts to increase Louisiana’s credit were unsuccessful last year.
Program for new moms faces funding shortfall
A federal program that supports new moms is facing a funding shortfall that jeopardizes access for millions of participants. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) finances healthy foods and other support for women who are either pregnant, breastfeeding, or have children younger than six months old. But the program is currently in the crossfire of congressional budget debates. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Katie Bergh and Lauren Hall explain how any shortfall will disproportionately harm Black and Hispanic families.
Due to long-standing barriers to housing, education, and employment opportunities and other forms of discrimination impacting people of color, Black and Hispanic families face greater economic hardship — including lower wages, higher unemployment, higher poverty rates, and higher levels of deep poverty — and thus may be more likely to qualify for and seek out assistance from WIC. Because Black and Hispanic families are more likely to receive WIC than families of other races or ethnicities, a WIC funding shortfall that forces children onto waiting lists would disproportionately harm Black and Hispanic children.
Employer on-site child care
As Congress continues to dither, businesses are tackling America’s child care crisis themselves. The rising cost of care is already keeping millions of people out of the workforce. And the federal relief dollars that kept the nation’s child care industry afloat during the pandemic expired last month. But as the Washington Post’s Abha Bhattarai explains, companies are wooing workers with the prospect of on-site child care.
Spam-maker Hormel is building a $5 million child-care facility in Austin, Minn. Medical services company VGM Group is converting 8,000 square feet of office space into a day care in Waterloo, Iowa. And the country’s largest private employer, Walmart, is putting the finishing touches on an early learning center in Bentonville, Ark., that will serve more than 500 children. On-site child care has become the latest — and often, priciest — new way for businesses of all sizes to attract and keep employees. That’s particularly the case in understaffed industries such as manufacturing, retail and education that have struggled to find low-wage workers in communities where child care is often scarce.
Number of the Day
51% – Percentage increase in total home-school student enrollment in Louisiana since the 2017-18 school year. A nationwide analysis found no correlation between school district quality, as measured by standardized test scores, and home-schooling growth. (Source: Washington Post)