Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gov. John Bel Edwards unveils far-reaching tax plan

Posted By on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 at 3:55 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday unveiled a far-reaching tax plan to fix a $1.2 billion fiscal precipice the state is approaching next year, calling for a striking departure from how businesses are currently taxed and cutting income taxes for most Louisiana residents.

A key part of the plan is the addition of a commercial activity tax (CAT) — essentially a 0.35 percent tax on gross receipts for businesses. That tax would raise between $800 and $900 million per year. Businesses making less than $1.5 million would not be subject to the CAT, and would instead pay $250 to $750 per year.

Edwards called for a reduction to personal and corporate income tax rates, an end to corporate franchise taxes phased out over 10 years and eliminating the fifth penny of sales tax that lawmakers raised last year temporarily to cover a more than $1 billion budget hole.
Louisiana currently has the highest combined state and local sales tax in the nation.

“Our problem is easy to identify. We’re operating on a broken outdated structure,” Edwards said at an afternoon news conference at the Capitol. “The central piece of this plan involves leveling the playing field that has been unfairly tilted toward the big guy.”

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Survey: Louisianans want tax increases, spending cuts to solve state budget crisis

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 3:48 PM


Louisiana residents may not be as anti-tax as conventional wisdom suggests, according to an LSU survey released today, but most residents also believe the state can and ought to reduce spending by eliminating government inefficiencies.

A sizable majority of those surveyed — 71 percent — believe lawmakers should use a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to solve the state’s reoccurring budget shortfalls, LSU’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs Louisiana Survey 2017 found.

Researchers found tax hikes must be tied to specific areas, like higher education, elementary and secondary education and health care, to gain support.

But which taxes should lawmakers increase when they go into session April 10th?

“That’s the part where the public is not offering our public leaders, our policymakers, a clear path,” said LSU Public Policy Research Lab Director Michael Henderson, co-author of the report.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Louisiana women won't receive equal pay until 2115, study predicts

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 9:44 AM


According to new projections released today by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the wage gap for women in Louisiana won't close until the year 2115. In the report, Louisiana joins just three other states — North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — in failing to close the gap until the 22nd century.

The group's analysis considered the ratio of women's to men's earnings for full-time workers and how that ratio has changed over time since 1959. The wage gap can cost a woman many thousands of dollars over the course of her career and contributes to lifestyle issues such as difficulty saving for retirement — a serious problem for women, who typically live longer than men.

City and state officials often discuss the egregious pay equity problem statewide and recently have begun to make efforts to address it. The New Orleans City Council established an Equal Pay Advisory Committee and Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for a Civil Service Commission study about gender disparity on its own payroll. Gov. John Bel Edwards and Donna Edwards also hosted a summit earlier this month about pay equity in Baton Rouge.

Though such discussions are limited in their initial impact, it's heartening to know this pervasive issue is on elected officials' radar.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, Rod Dreher to speak at UNO April 17

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 2:30 PM


J.D. Vance, author of the much-discussed Rust Belt memoir Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, will speak on a panel at University of New Orleans April 17. American Conservative senior editor Rod Dreher also will appear; their talk is called "Faith, Hillbillies and American Politics."

Vance has been regularly quoted in analyses of last fall's presidential election as a voice of the "white working class" some pundits credit with propelling President Donald Trump to power. In the book, he writes about the disillusionment of Rust Belt voters who feel left behind by the modern economy and say that many in national politics don't reflect their values. You can read excerpts from the book in the Washington Post and in National Review.

The event takes place in UNO's Geoghegan Ballroom at the Homer L. Hitt Alumni Center. A reception at 5:15 p.m. precedes the 6 p.m. talk. It's free to attend.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Legislature tries to hash out solutions to $304M state budget shortfall

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 6:05 PM

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told the Finance Committee consideration is being given to funding alternatives, but that Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration is pursuing its original proposal.
  • Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told the Finance Committee consideration is being given to funding alternatives, but that Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration is pursuing its original proposal.
The Senate Finance Committee Tuesday moved forward with a resolution, primarily for the benefit of their wavering House colleagues, that would employ $119 million of the rainy day fund as part of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ budget proposal to close a $304 revenue shortfall.

House Republicans have expressed reluctance to do that, instead seeking additional budget cutbacks.

The resolution, sponsored by Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, and six members of Senate leadership was moved to the Senate floor without action to expedite House movement on the matter. Earlier in the day, House Republicans and Edwards met to thrash out differences.

“I am very concerned if we don’t get into using some of the rainy day fund some of those programs that are much needed and much used. . . may very well get hurt,” Alario said. “The clock is running.”

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Former mayor Marc Morial talks race and inequality at Tulane Feb. 16

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 10:53 AM

Former mayor Marc Morial.
  • Former mayor Marc Morial.
Former New Orleans mayor and National Urban League president Marc Morial appears at Tulane University's Lavin-Bernick Center later this week to discuss "The Future of Race and Economics: Income Equality, Health Care and Affordable Housing Under the New Administration."

Noted economist and writer Dr. Julianne Malveaux will facilitate the conversation. According to a release announcing the event, they'll discuss the merits of capitalism and its effect on "vulnerable populations," including people of color. The event is part of Amistad Research Center's "Conversations in Color" series, which recently featured New York Times columnist Charles Blow.

The event takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Lavin-Bernick Center's Kendall Cram Lecture Hall. Admission is free, but participants should register online.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

New Orleans City Council votes to establish Equal Pay Advisory Committee

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 10:45 AM

New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.
  • New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.

At a meeting held Feb. 9, the New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to create a new committee to provide the council with expertise on matters of pay equity and wage discrimination. It's part of a broader campaign by the Council and city officials to combat the dismal state of pay equity in Louisiana, where women make as little as 48 cents on the dollar to men's earnings.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Edwards makes case to fix $304M mid-year budget shortfall

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 4:05 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards and his fiscal staff discuss the state’s fiscal shortfall Friday with the joint legislative Committee on the Budget. - SAM KARLIN
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards and his fiscal staff discuss the state’s fiscal shortfall Friday with the joint legislative Committee on the Budget.

Gov. John Bel Edwards made his case Jan. 27 for combining the state’s “rainy day fund” and spending cuts to fix a $304 million mid-year budget shortfall, warning lawmakers that funding reductions will be “deep” and “painful” no matter what.

Edwards will unveil a specific plan to address the funding gap Feb. 6, but today he said he wants to protect K-12 education, the Department of Corrections and Department of Children and Family Services from budget cuts.

He will call the Legislature to a special session from Feb. 13-23 specifically to address the deficit.

“It’s an understatement to say there just aren’t any painless options left for us,” Edwards said. “It’s storming ... The idea that under these circumstances we wouldn’t use the rainy day fund for its express purpose doesn’t make any sense to me.”

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Landrieu, Brossett take on wage gap for women with new initiatives

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 at 6:47 PM

Landrieu in 2012.
  • Landrieu in 2012.

In a Jan. 25 ceremony attended by pay equity advocates and outspoken women's rights champions State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and State Rep. Helena Moreno, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed an executive order designed to combat equal pay issues for women who are employees of the City of New Orleans. Though the order applies to just one segment of local working women, it speaks to a persistent regional problem: Louisiana is regularly recognized as the state with the largest pay gap for women, with women earning 65 cents on the dollar to men's earnings. The gap is larger for women of color, who earn as little as 48 cents on the dollar statewide.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land, to speak at UNO Jan. 18

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 3:40 PM

  • Courtesy University of New Orleans
  • Arlie Russell Hochschild.

Arlie Russell Hochschild, a sociologist whose spent five years in Lake Charles trying to understand red state voters, will speak at the University of New Orleans next Wednesday.

Hochchild's recent book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, adds to a growing volume of scholarship about the "Great Paradox," or how conservative voters embrace politicians and policies that seem to oppose their own interests: the poor Appalachia resident who hates "Obamacare," the Gulf Coast fisherman who votes to deregulate the oil industry. You can read an essay adapted from the book here; it was a National Book Award finalist in 2016.

She'll appear in the Innsbruck Room at UNO's University Center at 1 p.m. Jan. 18. It's free to attend.

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