A transition committee for Gov. Jeff Landry has recommended phasing out Louisiana’s corporate and personal income tax, which currently brings in nearly $5 billion a year that supports health care, higher education, public safety and other programs in every community in the state. But the report’s authors do not provide details on how to replace the lost revenue. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports

Ditching the income tax has been a conservative rallying cry for years, although the candidate who pushed it hard in last year’s governor’s race, then-state Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, dropped out because he was attracting so little support. Nelson is now the Landry administration’s Revenue secretary. 

Eliminating the state’s income tax would inevitably shift the responsibility for paying taxes from wealthy people and corporations to low-income Louisianans and small businesses, and make it much harder to balance the state budget each year. 

Jan Moller, director of the left-leaning Louisiana Budget Project, rejects the transition committee’s tax recommendations. “The problem with our income tax is that it’s not progressive enough,” Moller said. “On a per capita basis, it’s one of the lowest in the country. The inadequacy of the income tax is a main reason why the lowest income households in our state pay state and local taxes at a higher rate than those at the very top.”

Reality check: Louisiana’s tax system is already upside-down, with the wealthy paying a far lesser share of their income in state and local taxes than low- and middle-income families, according to the latest edition of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s Who Pays? Even without radical tax cuts, Louisiana is looking at budget shortfalls in the years ahead. Eliminating the state income tax would compound this looming fiscal cliff.

Education and crime on Landry’s agenda
Another transition committee for Gov. Jeff Landry released their recommendations for improving K-12 education in the state. Numerous reports have reinforced what state leaders have known for a long time: Poverty and school performance are inextricably linked. But as The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Patrick Wall explains, the report’s authors aren’t focusing on Louisiana’s endemic poverty. 

The proposals generally align with policies favored by Republicans, but are notably short on specifics. Instead, they leave the details to the Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, and Landry, a Republican who is expected to introduce a package of education proposals before the main legislative session begins in March. The suggestions mostly steer clear of recent school culture-war issues.

Another transition report recommends rolling back the historic criminal justice reforms that passed in 2017. The Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Initiative allowed the state to shed its dubious distinction as the world’s prison capital by reducing the number of non-violent inmates. But The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Meghan Friedmann reports that those bipartisan reforms are now in jeopardy. 

Under Gov. Jeff Landry, Louisiana is on track to take a more hardened approach to criminal justice, moving away from the therapeutic model used for juveniles, making it more difficult for offenders to be released on parole and eliminating policies that give offenders more credit for time served on good behavior in pretrial detention. His administration may also seek to expand drug courts, overhaul the bail system and find ways to better fund regional crime labs and the public defender system. 

Landry is expected to call for a special legislative session next month focused on crime. 

Louisiana in the aftermath of Roe reversal
The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade meant that abortion services in Louisiana immediately became illegal because of an existing “trigger” law. But it did not mean the end of abortions in America or Louisiana. It meant that pregnant people with financial means would still get abortions in other states. The Time Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Emily Woodruff and Jeff Adelson report on abortion access in Louisiana 18 months after the ban. 

One study found abortions rose to 511,000 in the first six months of 2023 compared to 465,000 in the first six months of 2020. … The first full-year analysis came to a similar conclusion, finding that abortions increased slightly by 0.2%, according to a study from WeCount. In the 12 months after the June decision, there were on average 82,298 abortions a month, compared with 82,115 in the two months before Dobbs. WeCount is part of the Society of Family Planning, which also supports abortion rights. But it’s hard to say how many of those are Louisiana women.

The number of births in Louisiana appear to have increased, as residents are now forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. 

Comparing Louisiana births before and after the ban, researchers estimated the number of babies born was 3.2% higher than expected if no ban had be put in place. That puts additional births somewhere in the ballpark of 1,800 each year, though researchers caution that the estimate assumes the trends of the first six months of 2023 are the same for the entire year, which might not be true. Louisiana was an outlier in the analysis, however, because births didn’t rise as much as researchers predicted, given the state is over 400 miles from the nearest abortion provider.

Will ACA subsidies last?
A record 21.3 million people have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act this year. The surge was partially due to enhanced federal subsidies that have made coverage much more affordable for people with low and moderate incomes. The New York Times’ Noah Weiland explains what could happen if those subsidies are allowed to expire in 2025. 

But the Affordable Care Act remains intertwined with the nation’s political currents, in part because of the temporary nature of the enhanced subsidies. A Republican president or a Republican-controlled Congress could allow the expansion of the subsidies to expire, which would cause premiums to rise and potentially discourage Americans from signing up for coverage. Such a move would also risk drawing a backlash from voters unhappy about the higher costs. 

Number of the Day
$135 million – Amount of money that Louisian’s closed primary system for federal and some state elections will cost taxpayers over the next decade. (Source: Louisiana Secretary of State via The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate)