Gov. John Bel Edwards pushed back Thursday against House Republicans’ decision to use the state’s excess cash to pay down state pension debt instead of investing in people and infrastructure. Conservatives have rallied around the House plan, which allows them to avoid a politically difficult vote to exceed a constitutional limit on spending. While debt payments on retirement don’t count towards the limit, funding for teacher pay raises, early childhood education and infrastructure do. The Advocate’s James Finn reports: 

“The idea that we wouldn’t pass a budget this year and would have to have a special session, under these circumstances, would be beyond a self-inflicted wound,” Edwards said. In an earlier interview, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne likened the debt-payoff plan to paying down a mortgage on a house before repairing holes in the roof. “The concept doesn’t necessarily work in a state where roofs are leaking, buildings are not getting repaired, roads are not safe and teachers are not adequately paid,” Dardenne told The Advocate, The Acadiana Advocate and the Times-Picayune’s editorial board.

Senate votes to keep movie subsidies 
A bill that would continue Louisiana’s practice of subsidizing film and TV production was amended as it advanced out of the Senate Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Committee on Thursday. House Speaker Clay Schexnayder’s House Bill 562 would have phased out the state’s annual $180 million film tax credit, which was scheduled to expire in 2025, over the next decade. An amendment offered by chairman Bret Allain removes the phase out language, but only extends the program until 2030. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports on the committee’s actions and debate surrounding Louisiana’s film tax credits. 

“Film = jobs,” read buttons worn by supporters of the tax credit at the Capitol. Supporters also say the tax break brings tourists to Louisiana who want to visit places where movies were filmed. But critics note that independent studies show taxpayers receive a poor return on their investment in the industry – as little as 22 cents for every dollar given away. They also say that using the $150 million per year to hire teachers would be a better investment of taxpayer dollars. “We give more away for film tax credits than we do to all the universities in north Louisiana,” Sen. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, said during a committee hearing on Monday, adding that it is “the worst kind of tax policy” because it can survive only with the government subsidy.

The Louisiana Illuminator’s Greg LaRose explains how Louisiana’s film tax credits fit into the larger budget debate.

Past time for businesses to speak out against anti-gay legislation
While Louisiana’s legislature has taken on a more partisan hue in recent years, it still didn’t delve into America’s culture wars with the same frequency and ferocity as other states. But it appears an election year has applied pressure on some lawmakers to show their “anti- gay” bonafides. While bills that would have negatively affected LGBTQ+ people failed to advance during last year’s legislative session, similar proposals are having more success this spring. An Advocate editorial, citing the lack of “common sense” in the Capitol this time around, urges Louisiana’s business community to persuade lawmakers to stop attacking LGBTQ+ people. 

This argument was pithily expressed in a statement from the Louisiana Budget Project: “Louisiana is marred by endemic poverty, crumbling infrastructure and a coast that is slowly being swallowed by the Gulf of Mexico. Attacking LGBTQ+ people does nothing to address these issues, and will not make Louisiana a better place to live for residents or a more attractive place for people to move.” Let us face the realities about Louisiana’s economy. One is that tourism is vital for us, and a lot of people who won’t show up for Pride parades still might wonder why they should vacation in a state where ugly prejudices run riot in the law. And some of Louisiana’s largest employers are multinational corporations with large shareholder bases who are not likely to be happy with social policies that target and demean minorities.

Black Louisianans exposed to more industrial pollution
Louisiana’s petrochemical industry is still disproportionately building facilities in majority-Black communities, according to a new report from the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. The new findings reinforce previous ones from the Center, and others, that Black people in Louisiana are exposed to far greater amounts of harmful pollution than their white counterparts. WWNO’s Halle Parker reports: 

Overall the amount of pollution has decreased, but plants are still being planned in areas with a large Black population, and the risk of cancer and other health problems remains high. The region itself also has a higher proportion of Black people than in the ‘90s, according to 2020 Census data. In areas like St. Charles Parish, the majority of plants sat in mostly white communities in 1990, but now the biggest polluters are “primarily” in areas with a 52% to 65% Black population. “Nothing has changed. The data is still there. In fact, it’s getting worse,” said Deep South Center of Environmental Justice founder Beverly Wright during a news conference Monday.

Number of the Day
$0.78 –
U.S. average wholesale price of a dozen large eggs in the first week of May. This is down from a peak of about $5.30 from the end of 2022. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture via Axios)