Gov. Jeff Landry has highlighted crime victims to justify his radical reshape of Louisiana’s criminal justice system. But Landry’s 2024-25 budget recommendations would cut $7 million from domestic violence shelters in the state. Louisiana is a leader in femicides, which is the murder of a woman by an intimate partner. A 2021 report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor showed the state had a critical shortage of shelter beds for domestic violence victims. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reports

If that money disappears, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence will have to pull back on opening five new shelters and expanding six of 16 existing facilities across the state, executive director Mariah Stidham Wineski said. “The new shelters that are opening will shut down,” Wineski said. … It’s unclear why the Landry administration removed funding for domestic violence shelters. The governor’s office has not responded to a question about the change. 

Louisiana will face massive budget shortfalls in the years ahead when automatic tax cuts take effect. This looming fiscal cliff has been used to justify standstill or reduced spending on key state priorities, such as permanent teacher pay raises. But as O’Donoghue explains, Landry and legislative leadership are using this reasoning selectively:

State lawmakers are swiftly moving a package of Landry’s bills through a special session on crime. It is expected to add millions of dollars in prison expenses each year by lengthening the time incarcerated people stay behind bars. At the same time, domestic violence shelters face reductions in funding, the governor has also asked lawmakers to approve approximately $10 million more for a new state police troop for New Orleans and $3 million to send Louisiana National Guard members to the Texas border with Mexico in the next four months. 

Rural hospital closures? 
More than a quarter of rural hospitals in Louisiana are at risk of closing, according to a new report from Chartis. The health care consulting firm’s analysis showed that 20% of all the nation’s rural hospitals are in danger of shutting down. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Faimon A. Roberts III reports

Because rural populations tend to be poorer, health care providers in those areas depend more on Medicaid than many of their urban counterparts. With Medicaid as a chief source of revenue, many rural hospitals are on a razor’s edge. In addition to low margins, many rural hospitals struggle to attract doctors. And more and more medical school graduates are opting for lucrative subspecialties instead of the general practice physicians needed in rural areas.

Reality check: The 2016 expansion of Medicaid eligibility has been critical to keeping Louisiana’s rural hospitals open. But a looming fiscal cliff could force the type of health care cuts not seen since the last time the state had a massive budget shortfall. 

Rollback of criminal justice reforms is misguided
Gov. Jeff Landry’s proposals to unravel Louisiana’s 2017 criminal justice reforms are moving rapidly through the Legislature. The plans would restrict parole eligibility, lengthen sentences for certain crimes, treat 17-year-old children as adults in the criminal justice system and make it easier to carry concealed weapons. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Quin Hillyer joins a growing number people who are questioning these efforts:  

Louisiana’s own legislative auditor just last week released a study showing the 2017 package worked like an entire pocketful of charms, saving the state $153 million while actually increasing the percentage of people locked up for violent rather than minor crimes. The percentage of people who became arrestable repeat offenders actually fell. That’s why a coalition of good-government groups, together known as RESET Louisiana, is urging lawmakers not to repeal most of the 2017 package. After all, why would Landry want to change such excellent results?

Why not pay teachers $100,000 per year?
Teachers in Louisiana are paid less than their Southern and national peers. Nationally, teachers earn, on average, just 74 cents for every dollar made by other college grads. This, despite the positive, lifelong impact that good teachers can have on students. The Washington Post’s Daniel Pink wonders what would happen if teachers got a $100,000 base salary:

Some states and localities have attempted to address the compensation problem with complicated pay-for-performance schemes that award teachers bonuses hinged on student test scores. The results of those efforts have been iffy at best, scandalous at worst, said Barbara Biasi, a labor economist at Yale University. But her research has found that raising base pay for effective teachers, a simpler solution, deepens student learning and keeps good teachers on the job. Higher base pay also reduces dropout rates and narrows the achievement gap between White and Black students, as well as White and Hispanic students, according to other studies.

Number of the Day
$7 million – Amount of funding that Gov. Jeff Landry’s 2024-25 executive budget would cut from domestic violence shelters in the state. (Source: Division of Administration)