The 2025 legislative session could see significant changes to Louisiana’s complex web of tax exemptions, credits, exclusions and other tax breaks. So says Rep. Julie Emerson, the new chair of the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, who will be charged with finding a way out of the $559 million fiscal “cliff” that lawmakers created for themselves by setting some taxes to expire next year. The Shreveport Times’ Greg Hilburn reports:

“When I talk to some of these business groups and talk to them about that, I can see the panic and the fear in their eyes when you start talking about credits and exemptions,” Emerson said. “That doesn’t mean they’re going away. It just means maybe it’s time to look at some of them and dig deep and bring people to the table and talk about how they’re benefiting Louisiana and attracting jobs and business to the state.” But the timing on those discussions remains up in the air. Emerson said her committee will begin meeting during the second week of June to investigate tax policy changes ahead of next year’s fiscal session.

A temporary .45-cent sales tax, which helped dig the state out of a massive budget hole and maintain fiscal stability over the last eight years, expires in 2025. If lawmakers do not renew the temporary sales tax, they will need to either replace that revenue with revenue from other sources or make budget cuts to health care, higher education and other vital services. 

BESE caving on early learning standards
A 25-member panel of experts spent a full year developing new age-appropriate guidelines for what children should be learning before they start kindergarten. But the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which has already approved the standards three times, is caving to conservative pressure and will reject those recommendations on Tuesday. Derrick Toups, member of the Early Learning Development Standards committee, in a letter to the Times Picayune| Baton Rouge Advocate pushes back:

Social and emotional development is not a “Trojan horse for critical race theory” as superintendent Cade Brumley has publicly stated. Nor is it “bad for children” as fomented by Moms for Liberty and other opponents of the standards. Fostering healthy social and emotional development in our early childhood classrooms is critical to the success of our state’s children. Words matter. We cannot allow language to be co-opted, misconstrued and twisted into something it is not. 

As Toups notes, the opposition stems from fears, unsupported by facts, about the new standards’ emphasis on social and emotional learning (SEL) — a framework for helping children manage their emotions and maintain positive relationships with others. While SEL has been a non-controversial topic for decades that garnered bipartisan support, it has now become a flashpoint in America’s culture wars. 

Welcome to “Oilyana”
The governor of Louisiana, a state on the front lines of the devastating effects of climate change, is a climate change denier. And Gov. Jeff Landry has tapped like-minded skeptics to serve as his administration’s environmental stewards. Landry also wants to merge the state agency charged with overseeing coastal restoration efforts with the Department of Energy and Natural Resources to make it easier for oil and gas companies to operate. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Bob Marshall reports from ‘Oilyana.” 

[Landry’s] His inaugural address was loaded with alleged conspiracies by environmental groups out to ruin us by spreading lies. Of course, he provided no names or listed any lies. Now he claims anyone opposing his plan to give even better tax breaks to polluting industries by reducing requirements they provide lasting jobs must “hate the middle class.” I’m not about to say that people who want to maintain or increase the lethal poisons our children are exposed to hate our middle class. But is it possible they love the oil and gas industry more?

Reality check: Louisiana could lose three-quarters of its coastal wetlands by 2070, according to a new study by a group of Tulane University scientists. 

State agencies need to collaborate more effectively
Louisiana needs more collaboration between state agencies and stakeholders to better coordinate and administer public assistance and workforce development programs, according to a new report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. The state spent more than $3 billion, mostly in federal money, on programs that provide food assistance, unemployment benefits and other vital resources to more than 1 million people in 2023. The report’s authors outline their recommendations:

The governor and cabinet-level leadership would need to take the lead in spurring improved coordination among these programs. In addition, we found that other states have varying levels of coordination among their agencies and programs. In Louisiana, potential strategies for improved coordination could include increased public information and data and/or document sharing. For example, several other states have websites that include a clear picture of available services and how to apply. 

Number of the Day
$8 – Maximum late fee amount that credit card companies would be allowed to charge under a new proposal from the Biden administration. (Source: Washington Post)