State Rep. Richard Nelson is running for governor on a plan to overhaul Louisiana’s tax structure, the centerpiece of which is doing away with the state’s income tax on people and corporations. To make up for the lost revenue, Nelson wants to raise the state’s sales tax and eliminate the current exemptions for groceries, prescription drugs and home utilities. He also proposes to raise property taxes, slash state spending on public schools and require cities and parishes to pay for things that are currently covered by the state, such as uncompensated medical care delivered by hospitals. Nelson’s bills were deferred before coming to a vote by the House Ways & Means Committee, and an Advocate editorial explains why his plan doesn’t add up. 

Property taxes are tied to values of individual parcels; not every parish is an Ascension, for example, filled with high-value petrochemical facilities. For poor parishes in the Mississippi and Red river valleys, doubling the little they get from property taxes would mean even greater poverty and failure of locally funded services that state government could no longer help pay for. And for parts of our state already grappling with shockingly high property insurance prices these days, an increase in property taxes could put the cost of home ownership out of reach. 

The focus on tax policy continues on Tuesday morning, when the same committee will hear Rep. Matthew Willard’s bill to expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC has a proven track record of lifting families out of poverty and putting children on the path to a brighter future. They are especially critical at a time when the cost of basic necessities continues to climb and federal pandemic-era protections have expired. LBP’s Jan Moller and Delores Hurst of the Capital Area United Way, writing in a guest column for The Advocate in February, explain: 

The earned income tax credit rewards hard work, reduces our state’s deep racial disparities and helps make our overall tax structure fairer for everyone. It is a small investment of state resources that can make a big difference in the lives of working families. The EITC’s track record of helping Louisiana families is why it has historically had bipartisan support from rural, suburban and urban legislators, along with the business community. Maintaining an EITC at the federal level and increasing it at the state level encourage more gainful employment among low to moderate-income households.

Rep. Willard’s House Bill 162 would double our state EITC from 5% to 10% of the federal credit. It’s a small investment of state resources that can have long-lasting effects on families, and especially children. 

Contact your lawmakers and tell them to stand up for Louisiana families by expanding the state’s EITC

Medical discrimination against Black women
Black women are more likely to be drug tested when giving birth in a hospital than white women, regardless of the woman’s history of substance abuse, according to a new study. The New York Times’ Roni Caryn Rabin reports on a study that analyzed more than 37,000 medical records of women who gave birth in a large hospital system in Pennsylvania between 2018 and 2021, which found that Black women were less likely than white women to test positive for drugs even though they were more likely to be tested. 

The findings are a “clear illustration of disparate care,” said Dr. Alison Stuebe, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, who was not involved in the research. “This study is one example of how provider behavior causes Black women to distrust the health care system.” … Among those who did report substance use in the previous year, the likelihood of being tested was 76 percent for Black women, compared with 68 percent for white women. Yet white women with a history of substance use were more likely to test positive: About 66.7 percent were likely to test positive, compared with 58 percent of Black patients with such histories. 

Louisiana’s missing students 
Louisiana’s public schools have been losing students since the start of the pandemic, as families leave hurricane-ravaged areas and others choose homeschooling. The Advocate’s Charles Lussier reports that roughly one-fourth of the recent decline has come from parishes that were hit hardest by Hurricanes Laura and Ida. 

The Associated Press, Stanford University’s Big Local News project and Stanford education professor Thomas Dee earlier this year released an analysis of enrollment declines across the United States. Examining enrollment and U.S. Census data from 2019 to 2021, they counted more than 19,000 missing kids in Louisiana. These are students whose absence could not be explained by shifts to homeschooling or changes in the school-age population in the state. Newly released enrollment and Census data suggest the missing kid population has shrunk to about 14,500 students thanks to fresh growth in homeschooling, a partial rebound in enrollment in traditional private schools, and lower Census estimates of the school-age population in Louisiana.

Didja Know? Podcast
In the latest edition of the podcast, LBP’s Jan Moller and Stacey Roussel break down two bills that could have a meaningful impact on Louisiana families: House Bill 162 by Rep. Matt Willard, which would double the state Earned Income Tax Credit, and House Bill 596 by Rep. Aimee Freeman, which would establish a statewide paid family and medical leave program. Click here to listen

Number of the Day
$120.60 – The average payout of Louisiana’s Earned Income Tax Credit 2022. Louisiana’s EITC is the second-lowest among the 31 states that have established their own credit, but House Bill 162 by Rep. Matthew Willard would double it from 5% to 10% of the federal credit. (Source: Louisiana Department of Revenue)