Louisiana legislators are diligently tending to the needs of corporations and wealthy individuals during the ongoing legislative session. Bills are moving through the Capitol that would provide new tax breaks for oil and gas companies, while other “reforms” would redirect state revenue from education, health care and other priorities to other uses. An Advocate editorial urges the Legislature to prioritize struggling families the same way.

Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, proposes a small bit of economic justice for essential workers. His House Bill 162 would double the existing state supplement to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. As written, it would be costly, starting at about $67 million a year. Where would that money go? To rewarding work, as does the federal EITC, especially if the families dependent on the smallest paychecks will still be scrimping and saving most of the time. “Tax policy is about priorities. Who do you prioritize?” asked Jan Moller of the Louisiana Budget Project. “We need to prioritize working families with low incomes.” A good question, and a good answer.

A companion bill by Rep. Alonzo Knox, House Bill 632, would allow a $250 tax credit for children 0-5 living in families with incomes below $40,000 per year. Knox voluntarily shelved his bill on Monday after conservatives on the House Ways and Means committee complained about its cost. 

Louisiana’s maternal mortality crisis is getting worse 
Louisiana is the riskiest place in the developed world to have a baby. It’s even riskier for Black women, who are up to four times more likely to die during or after child birth than their white counterparts. But many medical experts expect even worse rates of maternal mortality in the state after last summer’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade, as doctors forgo crucial care because of fear of criminal prosecution. CBS News’ 60 Minutes profiled the maternal mortality crisis in Louisiana and how decisions and lack of support from elected officials in a post-Dobbs world are putting the lives of women and their babies at risk. 

In Louisiana some physicians are now afraid to offer methods typically used to treat miscarriages because those same methods are used in abortion and could be seen as illegal, potentially landing health care providers in jail. … Kaitlyn Joshua: Absolutely. I think a lot of times we fail to realize the intersectionality between maternal health care, reproductive justice and abortion care. Until we understand that all of those things interconnect we probably will not see change any time soon. Dr. Jennifer Avegno: We take an oath to do no harm, and that’s really our north star as a physician. But when the prospect of doing that might cause you to be brought up on criminal charges, that’s a really difficult place for our physicians to be.

Spending debates heat up at the Capitol
The budget-writing House Appropriations Committee has decided to shelve Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed teacher pay raises – along with a $52 million investment in early childhood education – in favor of a plan hatched by hard-right lawmakers that steers Louisiana’s excess revenue into the pension plans for teachers and state workers. The move marked the latest salvo in the defining political battle of the current session: whether to use available revenue to address ongoing needs, or sock it away in various accounts so that legislators can avoid a politically difficult vote on the state spending cap. An Advocate editorial sides with Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate President Page Cortez: 

We can’t predict how this will play out. But it appears that even if the money in dispute were stashed away, it would very likely be spent in the next fiscal year. … Some lawmakers who expect to be around next year also hope to preserve the current windfall of one-time money for a GOP governor. What’s wrong with this scenario? Politics is not, after all, unknown in the State Capitol. However, the reality of the last eight years under Edwards is that spending plans for one-time surpluses have been adopted without this much partisan rancor — and irresponsibility. Bottom line: If the one-time money is saved till next year, it will just delay — needlessly — repairs to roads, buildings, airports and universities. That’s not the way to grow our state’s economy. Does the minority rule in Baton Rouge? We’ll find out soon.

Child Tax Credits keep kids safe
The expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit brought an historic reduction in child poverty in 2021 by giving low- and moderate-income families a monthly, no-strings-attached cash allowance, which they used on basic necessities such as food, utilities or shelter. But the expanded credit also reduced rates of child abuse and neglect, according to data from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Lindsey Rose Bullinger, Ph.D, writing in a guest column for Undark, explains the findings. 

During the four days immediately after a child tax credit payment was issued, the number of child-abuse-related emergency room cases dipped by about 22 percent, from more than seven cases a day to around six. The dip was especially pronounced for boys and non-Hispanic White children. The effect is specifically related to the child tax credit: Similar data from previous years did not show the same monthly dips in visits, and there’s nothing in the data to suggest that the dips were an artifact of the pandemic itself. The declines in child abuse and neglect cases that followed each payment were short-lived; after four days, the case numbers went back up to their pre-payment levels. Still, the data suggest the policy of putting cash in parents’ hands might have helped keep many children throughout Georgia, and beyond, safe.

Congress failed to renew the federal Child Tax Credit at the end of 2021, leaving it to states to provide this crucial resource to residents. Louisiana lawmakers have the opportunity to provide a similar credit to Louisiana children via Rep. Alonzo Knox’s House Bill 632

Number of the Day
51st – Louisiana’s national rank for working moms. (Source: WalletHub)