Economy

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gov. Edwards calls conservatives' bluff

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 1:39 PM

From left, House speaker Taylor Barras, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate president John Alario. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • From left, House speaker Taylor Barras, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate president John Alario.

If you talk to conservative state lawmakers and business leaders in Louisiana, they’ll tell you there’s no “appetite” for fiscal reform. They all know what fiscal reform looks like, they just don’t see a way to get from where Louisiana is today to where it needs to be in the future, or even next year.

Gov. John Bel Edwards blames House Republicans, who have blunted his efforts to raise taxes. In fairness, the governor also balked at reforms proposed last November by a nonpartisan task force that studied tax policy for almost a year. Instead of backing the task force’s recommendations, Edwards floated an idea that struck many as coming out of left field: a commercial activity tax, or CAT. That idea went nowhere fast.
On the other hand, the GOP-led House failed to offer a reasonable alternative of its own, other than significant cuts this year and draconian cuts next year. Edwards and the Senate, which generally sides with the governor on fiscal issues, tamped down the House plan this year — but Louisiana’s long-range prospects remain untenable.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Report: Louisiana one of nation's worst states for black women

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 11:44 AM

IMAGES MONEY / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • IMAGES MONEY / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

A new report from the nonpartisan Institute for Women's Policy Research reveals extremely troubling data about the economic and social challenges facing black women here in Louisiana.

The report, which was compiled with the National Domestic Worker's Alliance, studied factors like political participation, employment, income and family structure to create a snapshot of the state of black women the U.S. The report's findings are genuinely disturbing: it finds black women concentrated in lower-paying jobs (even relative to their academic achievement), being paid less than white women and men in similar occupations and having more limited access to health insurance, often while acting as their family's primary breadwinner.

"Black women continue to experience structural barriers to progress that have roots in the nation’s legacy of racial and gender discrimination and exploitation," the report's authors explain. "A shifting political landscape has put Black women even more at risk for disenfranchisement and marginalization."

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Monday, June 12, 2017

State health director says Louisianans will 'suffer and die' under proposed cuts

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 5:10 PM

Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee (right) and Administration Commissioner Jay Dardenne testify before the House Appropriations Committee Monday. - Gee’s department faces $920 million total in cuts — $237 million in state fundings and the rest in federal funds — in the latest budget proposal for next fiscal year that begins in July. - SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee (right) and Administration Commissioner Jay Dardenne testify before the House Appropriations Committee Monday.Gee’s department faces $920 million total in cuts — $237 million in state fundings and the rest in federal funds — in the latest budget proposal for next fiscal year that begins in July.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, head of the Louisiana Department of Health, today said Louisianans will “suffer and die” under the legislature’s proposed cuts to state health programs.

The House Appropriations Committee met Monday to address House Bill 1, the state budget for next fiscal year, as it starts through the enactment process for the second time. The Department of Health faces $237 million in cuts from the state — $920 million if federal funds are included — in the latest version of HB1, a 9 percent decrease to the governor’s plan.

Including federal losses, cuts include $21 million from a development program for children with health complications, $60 million from displaced youth rehabilitation, $2 million from Zika virus infection prevention and $88.7 million from Medicaid-funded mental health services.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Governor, House leaders deadlocked on budget

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 1:25 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards says monies in the House budget proposal for TOPS would send students “to institutions with inferior funding and educational opportunities.”
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards says monies in the House budget proposal for TOPS would send students “to institutions with inferior funding and educational opportunities.”

Negotiations over next year’s state operating budget remain very tense in Baton Rouge as leaders of the House and Senate — along with representatives of the governor’s office — wrangle over whether, where, and how much to cut state spending after July 1.

According to several sources in the talks, GOP-led House has put forth a proposal that continues to make deep cuts — a total of more than $154 million compared to the Senate’s proposed budget, and a total of $233 million in cuts to higher education, health care, childcare services and other critical services. The governor and the Senate are balking at the House proposal, and the entire process appears gridlocked as lawmakers approach the final 24 hours of the annual session.


Earlier in the session, the House passed what it calls a “standstill” budget that spends just over 98 percent of what the state Revenue Estimating Conference predicts the state will take in. The latest House proposal for next fiscal year would cut more than $154 million from hospitals, higher education and other social services. The governor says the House also has not addressed $80 million in unmet needs for the current fiscal year (known in the Capitol as the supplemental budget). The Senate passed a spending plan more to the governor’s liking. That plan spends all of the estimated revenue for next year and includes a supplemental budget, but the House refused to go along with the Senate version.

The budget bill, known as HB 1, is now in a conference committee, where representatives from both chambers (and the governor’s office) are attempting to find middle ground.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gov. John Bel Edwards calls for special section of legislature to begin June 8

Posted By and on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 6:54 PM

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

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards today served legal notice he intends to call a special session of the 2017 Legislature 30 minutes after the regular session finally adjourns at its official deadline, 6 p.m. on June 8 — if the lawmakers have not completed their work on three funding instruments.

Once that is completed, the leges can adjourn for good again, even if it is that same evening. Otherwise, the special session can run through midnight June 19.

Under law, the governor must give notice of his intention to call the session seven days in advance of that date and set topic parameters for the Legislature.

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Groups blast city's chronic potholes at rally for infrastructure

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 6:06 PM

Participants (cautiously) gathered near this Lakeview pothole.
  • Participants (cautiously) gathered near this Lakeview pothole.

In Lakeview, the otherwise-manicured neighborhood where potholes that could swallow an ice cream truck yawn, a small group gathered Wednesday to call for a permanent fix for the streets and dramatic investments in the city's infrastructure.

About 20 people convened at the corner of Florida Boulevard and Rosemary Place to speak out at the edge of a particularly nasty pothole, whose jagged planes and crevasse-like depth seemed to suggest a recent tectonic shift. They banged pots and pans, chanted ("From Lakeview, to 9th Ward, we don't want no potholes!") and held up signs depicting some of the city's more egregious potholes, including sites in Uptown, the 7th Ward and Mid-City.

"I'm on these roads 8-10 hours a day. ... I know how bad these New Orleans city streets are," said Suzanne Oneill, a local cabdriver. "What we need is for our tax dollars to come back to our neighborhoods."

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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

clancy-1.jpg

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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