Louisiana has more than enough revenue on hand to provide meaningful pay raises for public school teachers and college faculty, maintain access to early childhood programming and continue investing in repairs and construction projects that have languished for years. But that can only happen if two-thirds of legislators agree to lift a constitutional cap on state appropriations, which is facing resistance from conservatives in the House who are being egged on by far right interest groups. The Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue has the latest as the Senate Finance Committee prepares to amend the budget passed by the House: 

This week, Senate leaders ramped up pressure on House members by signaling the upper chamber might pull nearly $200 million out of the existing House budget plan if House members refuse to lift the spending cap. The Edwards administration estimates the House budget approved earlier this month already exceeds the state’s spending limit by $193 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The House disputes that number, saying its own staff puts the same plan under the cap by $131 million. … The Senate may lean toward using the Edwards administration’s number however. If legislators don’t, they run the risk of the governor unilaterally cutting hundreds of millions of dollars of spending out of the budget plan lawmakers want, said Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette.

Paid leave for Minnesotans, but not for us
Minnesota this week became the 12th state (plus the District of Columbia) to guarantee that most workers can take paid leave from their jobs to care for a newborn or to recover from a serious illness. The AP’s Steve Karnowski reports that a bill signed by Gov. Tim Walz creates a program that starts in 2026 and will be financed by a new 0.7% payroll tax. It’s only the latest Minnesota law that supports workers and families. 

Paid family and medical leave will dovetail with the state’s new earned sick and safe time program that takes effect on Jan. 1 to provide shorter-term relief. Employees will earn one hour of sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours a year, unless the employer agrees to more. … Jocelyn Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said Minnesota will end up with one of the strongest programs in the country. A national paid leave program was part of President Joe Biden’s original “Build Back Better” agenda and passed the U.S. House but didn’t make it into law.

A similar effort in Louisiana – sponsored by Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman – died in the House Labor Committee earlier this month amid opposition from corporate lobbyists and their political allies. 

Child care is key to Louisiana economy
Louisiana’s child care sector has not completely recovered from employee loss during the pandemic, causing many parents to shift, reduce, or give up their jobs entirely. The Louisiana Legislature should invest in Louisiana’s children by supporting state-level investments in child care seats formerly covered by one-time federal funds, and expand access to more families. However, Bill Langkopp, the Executive Vice President of the Louisiana Lodging Association in a letter to The Advocate, notes that this is only a short-term solution.

(B)eyond this year, we will eventually have to grapple with the fact that the child care sector cannot retain and recruit talented teachers at less than $10 an hour. These skilled teachers, some of whom have years of experience with young children, are already leaving the field to work in other professions because of pay. At the same time, our families cannot afford to pay more in child care tuition. We will need solutions at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure the long-term economic success of our state — and ensure that everyone who wants to work is able to do so. 

Lessons from the front lines
After decades of decline, the number of Americans who are members of labor unions is on the rise, growing by 273,000 between 2021 and 2022. Earlier this month, that number grew again when workers at the Starbucks on Poydras Street in New Orleans voted to unionize, making them one of more than 300 Starbucks stores where workers have organized despite strong opposition from the company. Facing South’s Jason Kerzinski spoke with several of the workers involved in the New Orleans organizing effort, including Serena Sorjic-Borne, about what they learned. 

(B)efore starting the union drive at Starbucks, I did have some misconceptions. In particular, I was, like, hesitating because of fear of retaliation. I felt that the bosses and the managers would have basically, like, unlimited power and authority to do whatever they wanted to make life hell for the union organizers, including like disciplining them, they could fire them, anything like that. But since I started working on this union drive, what I learned was that you can overcome retaliation by fighting together with your co-workers. And if you fight, you win, and the more you fight, the stronger of a chance you have of winning.

Number of the Day

35 – Percentage of Americans who reported being “worse off” financially in 2022 compared to the previous year – an increase of 15 percentage points from last year’s survey. The decrease in financial well-being corresponds with the expiration of pandemic-era aid programs, including the expanded federal Child Tax Credit. (Source: Federal Reserve Board)