Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to veto a $100 million reduction to the Louisiana Department of Health ordered by the Legislature as part of the chaotic, last-minute negotiations on the state budget. The cut, which came as a surprise to Senate leaders, would have forced cuts to safety-net hospitals, nursing homes, doctor-training programs and programs that serve children with complex medical needs. Edwards announced the veto, which had been expected, while speaking on his monthly radio show. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports: 

Edwards, who is empowered to veto line items on the state’s budget, said on his monthly call-in radio program that he’ll ensure the health department will keep its current funding, and that, without his action, the department could in fact lose up to $700 million because of how state money is matched by federal dollars. The governor also said he would restore about $4 million that lawmakers stripped for a planned ship container terminal in St. Bernard Parish and $134 million in future funding for the Jimmie Davis Bridge, which connects Caddo and Bossier parishes. 

Costly tax cut rejected
A plan to phase out Louisiana’s corporate franchise tax – a longtime goal of large corporations and their lobbyists –  was vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday. The revenue loss from the franchise tax cut (Senate Bill 1) would have been partially offset by Senate Bill 6, which scales back the state’s costly and ineffective Quality Jobs Program but is now moot. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports. 

The Louisiana Legislature made sweeping changes to the state’s individual and corporate income tax structures just two years ago, and the state won’t see the effects of those changes until the end of this year or early next year. “With many moving and intertwined pieces, it is unwise to create a second franchise tax reduction trigger at this time,” Edwards wrote. He added that lawmakers still have yet to address the approaching sunset of a 0.45-cent sales tax in midyear 2025, the return of previously suspended sales tax exemptions, and tax dedications to the Transportation Trust Fund and Revenue Stabilization Fund. 

State faces critical juvenile justice choice
Legislation sitting on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk would strip away discretion from state judges to decide whether children charged with serious crimes should be tried in juvenile or adult courts. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Greg LaRose reports on Sen. Stewart Cathey’s Senate Bill 159, which is part of an ongoing conservative backlash against legislation passed in recent years that took a more therapeutic approach to tackling crime.  

Ashley Hamilton with the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights paints the Cathey legislation and other bills that target youth offenders as regressively punitive rather than therapeutic. She also challenges claims — in Louisiana and across the country — that juvenile crime is occurring at an increased rate, citing a lack of supporting data.   “We’re going about things in the absolute wrong way,” Hamilton said. “Most 17-year-olds are still in high school, so it’s important that we recognize this age and make sure that we’re nurturing them. When children make mistakes, when children get into trouble, a lot of the crimes that people are talking about are crimes of poverty and crimes of trauma.” 

On “Bidenomics”
America’s economy continues to create jobs and defy economists’ predictions that we are headed into recession. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wonders if President Joe Biden’s economic policies – pushing investment to specific industries, spending on public works, and a re-thinking of free-trade policies – deserve some of the credit. The change marks a fundamental shift from the “trickle down” philosophy of low taxes, deregulation and free trade that dominated elite public debates since the early 1980s. . 

The old formulas, [national security adviser Jake] Sullivan argued, not only failed to address new problems; they didn’t work on their own terms. “In the name of oversimplified market efficiency,” he said, “entire supply chains of strategic goods, along with the industries and jobs that made them, moved overseas.” The idea that freer trade “would help America export goods, not jobs and capacity, was a promise made but not kept.” He stressed the need for “a modern American industrial strategy” and the benefits of “moving beyond traditional trade deals to innovative new international economic partnerships.”

Number of the Day
  – Percentage increase in wages for American workers between 1979 to 2020. Wages were largely stagnant, as productivity grew more than three times as fast at 61.8%. (Source: CNBC)