The main battle of the 2023 legislative session was raising a constitutional cap on state spending to allow lawmakers to invest surplus and “excess” revenue on transportation, coastal restoration and other critical needs. Ultimately, lawmakers lifted the spending cap, clearing the way for $1.6 billion in new investments in construction projects that will benefit Louisiana for years to come. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Bernie Gallagher explains how these arbitrary caps on spending restrain lawmakers’ ability to address ongoing needs.

Arbitrary revenue or spending limits undermine that process of accountability and, ultimately, the effectiveness of a representative democracy. Revenue and expenditure limits do nothing to make government run more efficiently or ensure that dollars are well spent. Instead, they erect a barrier that undermines policymakers’ ability to keep pace with rising costs and changing needs. They reflect policy judgments made in the past and limit policymakers in the future from making sound judgments based on the realities they face (which past policymakers may not have accurately forecast). 

Investing in high-speed internet 
The Pelican State will get more than $1.3 billion in federal funding to help bring high-speed internet to rural and underserved areas. The money comes from a $42 billion pool of federal funds made available through the bipartisan infrastructure law approved last year. Vice President Kamala Harris recalled her visit to Sunset last year to promote the law and her conversations with people about the struggles caused by the lack of reliable internet. The Advocates’ Mark Ballard reports: 

“In Sunset, I met with parents who could not apply for remote work jobs, because they did not have a high-speed internet connection at home,” Harris said. “In Sunset, I met with entrepreneurs who struggle to start or grow a small business.” … All told, the state will receive more than $1.87 billion in federal funds for broadband expansion over the next five years, under grants from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Treasury and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. 

Medicaid coverage for infertility
Legislation in several states and the District of Columbia would require insurance companies to cover infertility diagnosis and treatment. This move would alleviate the financial burden many people face when trying to conceive. The Washington Post’s Jenna Portnoy reports on efforts in D.C. to cover a portion of the care for Medicaid enrollees

Advocates say the issue is a matter of racial justice because Black women are more likely to face fertility challenges than White women, but less likely to seek treatment due to factors such as the stigma and the prohibitive cost. The D.C. bill would also make it possible for women in same-sex couples to have children without spending out of pocket to prove their infertility diagnosis. … “It is an emotional burden. It is a physical burden — you know, we see the needles and all various things — and I hope that this legislation can take a little bit of the financial burden off of someone as they pursue this option.” [D.C. Council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large)]

The case for college
Colleges and universities in Louisiana and elsewhere face some existential challenges. Declining birth rates means fewer students are expected to enroll in the coming years, and rising tuition and fees have led more Americans to conclude that higher education is no longer worth the cost. But the Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate disagrees and notes that a college degree still pays off in higher lifetime earnings and other benefits. 

The numbers are clear about that. The stereotypical image of a Ph.D. in French poetry waiting tables does not begin to reflect the overall impact of higher education on peoples’ lives. There are many history and English majors in business. Some high-tech companies favor liberal arts graduates with high-order thinking skills, to deal with complex problems in an ever-evolving business world. From LSU’s main campus to our smaller four-year institutions around the state, the impact of a college education on upward social mobility is enormous. Louisiana should be looking for ways to further support higher education. And students and parents should not doubt the value of the four-year degree.

Number of the Day
37 – Number of U.S. cities with over 250,000 people that saw population loss from July 2021-22. This is down from the previous year, showing signs that big cities are recovering from historic population loss suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Source: Brookings)