Economy

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Minimum wage bill killed in state Senate Finance Committee

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 4:36 PM

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The state Senate Finance Committee, buttressed by warnings that any mandated increase in the state minimum wage could cost jobs, today killed a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $8 in 2018, and to $8.50 in 2019. The vote was 7-3.

Washington, D.C. and 28 other states have a minimum wager higher than the federal minimum of $7.25. Only three have a lower employment rate than Louisiana, according to Louisiana Budget Project Director Jan Moller. States must at least match the federal minimum.
Both the debate and the voting on Senate Bill 153 by state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, fell along party lines. Most Republicans argued businesses will make up for the increased expense by eliminating low-wage jobs or raising the cost of products.

“Instead of trying to raise the wage that could drive jobs away, we should be focusing on our economy,” state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said. “If you raise the minimum wage, you might be jeopardizing those very jobs that earn that $7.25.”

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Nungesser: Revenue shortfall means funding cuts for cultural events, Special Olympics

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 3:04 PM

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser cites funding woes to the Senate Finance Committee Monday. The committee has been getting the reaction of state agencies regarding cuts to their budgets under the state funding proposal for the coming fiscal year. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser cites funding woes to the Senate Finance Committee Monday. The committee has been getting the reaction of state agencies regarding cuts to their budgets under the state funding proposal for the coming fiscal year.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser says he will be forced to cut several areas under his responsibility next year — including cultural events, state parks and museums — because of Louisiana’s revenue shortfall.

Following his testimony today to the Louisiana Senate Finance Committee, Nungesser said some fiscal cuts he's made have broken his heart and warned future reductions would negatively affect art, parks and tourism across the state.

Nungesser’s office includes the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in House Bill 1, which holds the state’s $29 billion spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1. Under HB1, the funding instrument, the department will see a $3.3 million decrease in state general funds in its budget to $87.8 million from this year’s $91 million. The department also expects a $2 million decrease in self-generated revenue.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

House proposal on Uber and Lyft: Newton's First Law of Bad Government

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 2:50 PM

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Sir Isaac Newton reduced much of what we know about the universe to a handful of precise mathematical formulas. Good thing Sir Isaac isn’t around today to try to make sense of the Louisiana Legislature. He’d surely go mad.

Or perhaps, upon noticing the extravagance with which hordes of unctuous lobbyists are pushing a bill to regulate web-based transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, he might be moved to formulate his First Law of Bad Government: A proposed law’s awfulness is geometrically proportional to the number of lobbyists hired to secure its passage.

That is surely the case with House Bill 527 by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, which might otherwise be called the No Lobbyist Left Behind Bill.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bills on minimum wage, LGBT non-discrimination move to full state Senate for consideration

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 2:35 PM

State Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, author of Senate Bill 153, which would increase the state minimum wage to $8.50 by 2019, and Senate Bill 155, which would enact a non-discrimination act for Louisiana employees. - PHOTO BY CAITIE BURKES
  • PHOTO BY CAITIE BURKES
  • State Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, author of Senate Bill 153, which would increase the state minimum wage to $8.50 by 2019, and Senate Bill 155, which would enact a non-discrimination act for Louisiana employees.

The Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations on Wednesday favorably moved two bills by Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans — one to increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour by 2019 and the other to enact a non-discrimination policy for Louisiana employees who identify as LGBT.

Senate Bill 153, which was approved for full Senate debate on a 4-2 vote, would increase the state’s minimum wage from the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 to $8 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2018, and $8.50 beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

Senate Bill 155 carried 3-1, with committee chairman Neil Riser opposing. It would enact the Louisiana Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would add language to existing law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Report: Southeast Louisiana life expectancies rising, but still fall short of national average

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 10:00 AM

KURTIS GARBUTT / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • KURTIS GARBUTT / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

A nationwide JAMA Internal Medicine study published May 8, which compared death statistics across the U.S. by county, reveals good news for residents of the greater New Orleans area — little by little, life expectancies are on the rise.

One of the most dramatic changes occurred in Orleans Parish, where life expectancy for men rose by almost eight years between 1994 and 2014, the most recent year researchers studied. In 1994, life expectancy for men in the parish was just 65 years. In 2014, that figure had risen to 72 years. (For the sake of readability, these figures are rounded to whole numbers; the specific stats are available on this interactive map.)

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Child care issues in Louisiana hurting workers and employers, study finds

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 11:00 AM

SAVE THE CHILDREN CANADA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • SAVE THE CHILDREN CANADA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

A wide-ranging survey of families with children age 4 and under in Louisiana found that lack of consistent access to child care is hurting workers, cutting into state tax revenues and costing Louisiana employers $816 million a year via absences and employee turnover.

The study, which was released May 1 by Louisiana Policy Institute for Children (LPIC) and Louisiana State University's Public Policy Research Lab, is the first of its kind to focus on workplace productivity as it relates to child care in the state, its authors said. Its findings describe a landscape in which half of survey respondents are relying on their child's parent or another family member to provide child care during the work day. One in six study respondents had quit a job as a result of child care issues; many who answered the survey described leaving full-time employment to pursue part-time employment or turning down promotions due to problems with child care.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Scat, CAT: Gov. Edwards' controversial tax proposal effectively killed in House

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 2:16 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards' controversial tax proposal, opposed by business interests and many Republicans, effectively died today in the Louisiana House.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards' controversial tax proposal, opposed by business interests and many Republicans, effectively died today in the Louisiana House.

State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, voluntarily pulled his controversial corporate activities tax (CAT) bill from consideration Tuesday following a day and a half of testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means in which various business interests and most of the Republican committee members expressed staunch opposition.

Because Jones voluntarily deferred his House Bill 628, it can be brought before the committee again. It is Gov. John Bel Edwards revenue-raising centerpiece to balance the budget.

“This [discussion] has brought us to a point of catharsis,” Jones said after explaining his conversations with political leaders were ongoing.

At a press conference held by Edwards after the meeting, the governor said the legislation aimed to restore fairness. He said 80 percent of Louisiana’s corporations do not pay any income tax.

“The truth is, the fate of that bill was decided long before it became available,” Edwards said.

The committee also deferred the four other bills on the agenda, including Jones’ bills regarding a minimum corporate income tax and a Louisiana margins tax, as well as legislation by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, levying an oil refinery tax and a general business tax.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Bills exempting feminine hygiene products and diapers from state sales tax move to full Senate

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 3:48 PM

State Sen. JP Morrell.
  • State Sen. JP Morrell.

The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs on Monday sent to the full Senate two bills Senate Bill 24 and Senate Bill 27, both proposed by state Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, which would exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from state sales tax. The first would seek the exemption by statute and the second by constitutional amendment.

Under the current state law, diapers and feminine hygiene products are subject to the current 5 percent sales tax rate until June 30, 2018, and a 4 percent tax rate thereafter. The state already has exemptions for food for home consumption, residential utilities and prescription drugs.

Morrell said he feels it is “immoral” to tax items that not only affect some of the state’s low- income populations, but also that are not optional, adding, “This is really an issue that’s bothered me for quite some time.”

SB27 would put the measure to a vote of the people, which requires a two-thirds majority approval.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bill would raise gasoline tax by 17 cents a gallon across Louisiana

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 6:19 PM

CREATIVE COMMONS/MIKE MOZART
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/MIKE MOZART

As he had promised, State Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, filed House Bill 632 today, which would increase Louisiana’s gas tax by 17 cents per gallon and raise an estimated $510 million annually for the state’s highways and bridges.

Off the floor, Carter said, “Across Louisiana, our infrastructure is crumbling. The citizens of this state are sick of being stuck in traffic, and they want bold solutions that improve safety, quality of life and economic productivity, which this bill provides.”

Louisiana motorists now are paying 38.4 cents per gallon, including 20 cents in state taxes.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

At roundtable April 18, housing advocates discuss access to homeownership for communities of color

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 1:00 PM

FRANCISCO ANZOLA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • FRANCISCO ANZOLA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

At a roundtable discussing racial wealth inequality April 18, speakers from several local housing advocacy and neighborhood groups will propose solutions to a persistent problem: lack of access to homeownership for communities of color. According to a release about the event, just 43 percent of African-American households and 33 percent of Latino households own their homes, as compared to 54 percent of white and Asian households.

In discussions of New Orleans' Jiffy-Pop housing market, these kinds of basic structural inequities sometimes go un- or under-discussed. Even in more functional real estate markets, families of color still contend with what economists call the "wealth gap," or the difference between their net worth (cash, property, etc. minus debts and liabilities) and that of white families. Factors such as lack of access to inherited money and property, the racial wage gap and higher levels of debt (often due to predatory lending) all contribute to the wealth gap. A recent Institute for Policy Studies report found that at current growth rates, it will take black families 228 years to reach the same levels of wealth that white families enjoy today.

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