Economy

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Editorial: Paging Dr. Cassidy — move on from health care repeal

Posted By on Wed, Aug 2, 2017 at 1:46 PM

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy takes questions about health care at a town hall forum in Metairie earlier this year. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy takes questions about health care at a town hall forum in Metairie earlier this year.

Congressional Republicans began trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) literally the day after it was passed in 2010. The GOP-controlled House has voted to repeal it many times in a series of completely symbolic exercises that tossed red meat to their supporters without actually accomplishing anything. Now, with the GOP in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, it’s abundantly clear that Beltway Republicans have no idea how to follow through on their promise of “repeal and replace” — even though they’ve had seven years to figure it out.

“We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain on the Senate floor, shortly before three attempts at repeal failed in late July. “All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.”

McCain is correct. During the last seven years, the ACA has continued to rise in public opinion polls. Even its detractors praise some of its provisions, including coverage for pre-existing conditions and letting young people stay on their parents’ policies until age 26. A Gallup poll conducted in April found 55 percent of Americans now approve of the ACA, while only 30 percent want a complete repeal.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Here's some information about 'Black Women's Equal Pay Day,' which takes place July 31

Posted By on Mon, Jul 31, 2017 at 11:53 AM

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

Today is "Black Women's Equal Pay Day," or the day of the year black women must work to to earn the same wages as a white man earned during the previous year (2016).

"Equal Pay Day" recognizes pay inequity for all women and generally falls in spring, but today's date recognizes the stark differences in wages between white women and women of color. According to figures offered by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), women in the aggregate make about 80 cents for every dollar made by a man, but black women nationwide make 63 cents — a loss of $21,001 a year, relative to men. And the gap is even larger in Louisiana, where black women make just 48 cents for every dollar made by a man.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Editorial: Progressive groups framing the election discussion at forums

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 1:07 PM

Candidates at the "Town Hall for Better Jobs" July 25. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Candidates at the "Town Hall for Better Jobs" July 25.

If you’re interested in the citywide elections in New Orleans, now is the time to pay attention and attend a forum or town hall. By the time the televised debates begin, much of the agenda will be set — but already community groups are framing the discussion. Many of them are new progressive groups that sprang up during the 2016 presidential election.

Indivisible New Orleans, one of the groups, held the first New Orleans mayoral town hall three weeks before qualifying began. Earlier this week, a coalition of progressive organizations sponsored a “Town Hall for Better Jobs.” More than 20 candidates for mayor and City Council attended. Among the topics: raising the minimum wage, expanding job opportunities, and supporting unions and collective bargaining — ideas that are at the top of the progressive agenda. Those ideas are a far cry from forums at which candidates typically try to outdo each other with “tough on crime” rhetoric or decry the city’s pothole problems.

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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

screen_shot_2017-05-24_at_4.35.14_pm.png

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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