State Revenue Secretary Richard Nelson told a panel of state lawmakers on Tuesday that Louisiana should broaden its sales tax base in order to lower personal and corporate income tax rates. As the Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Alyse Pfeil explains, Nelson’s plan would apply more scrutiny to state sales tax exemptions, including those for groceries, prescription medicines and home utilities. 

The revenue secretary and one-time gubernatorial candidate told lawmakers his department was “combing through” the state’s 200 exemptions, each of which, [Nelson] acknowledged, has its own “political constituency” and thus, might be difficult to cut. His office will make recommendations to the Legislature on which tax exemptions should be eliminated ahead of any future session held on fiscal reform, said James Lee, the revenue department’s legislative liaison. 

The Jeff Landry administration appears to have backed away from attempts to repeal the state income tax – a costly undertaking that would require raising nearly $4.5 billion in other taxes to replace the lost revenue:

This week [Nelson] told lawmakers he wants to reduce the personal income tax rate but didn’t mention a full repeal. However, he told The Advocate that the revenue department is still working out its plan to “clean up” revenue triggers in state law that determine when personal income tax rates can be reduced or even eliminated.

Gov. Jeff Landry signed legislation on Wednesday that will create Louisiana’s version of so-called education savings accounts. The original proposal, which had a three-year implementation period, would have provided all families, regardless of income, with taxpayer-financed savings accounts that could be used to pay for private, online or home school. But as the Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Patrick Wall and Ashley White explain, Sen. Rick Edmonds’ Senate Bill 313 was neutered – for now – to prevent the spiraling costs that other states have experienced with their own programs.

To secure the bill’s passage, Landry and his allies agreed to remove language that made all families eligible for vouchers by the program’s third year in operation. Now, the state board of education will set the timeline for expanding eligibility. Most significantly, the Legislature will decide each year how much state money to spend on the vouchers. If all students become eligible, including the tens of thousands who already attend private school, the program could cost well over $500 million per year, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.

Louisiana already underfunds its public schools, and that funding gap would increase if more education dollars are diverted to private schools. 

Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, said he was grateful that the final bill was “watered down” so that it won’t “don’t blow up the state’s budget.” However, he said the voucher program will do little to improve outcomes for the majority of students who remain in public schools.

Much of the demand for ESA programs in other states have come from families, many affluent, who already had children enrolled in private schools

Wednesday marked Juneteenth, the day commemorating the ‘official’ end of chattel slavery for all African Americans in the United States. Unfortunately, America’s prison labor system resembles modern day slavery more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War. Andrew Ross, Tommaso Bardelli and Aiyuba Thomas explain in a New York Times op-ed:

And though members of Congress denounce imported goods made with prison labor in places like China’s Xinjiang province, the offices of many government agencies in Washington and elsewhere are stocked with furniture and supplies made by prisoners in this country. …Labor that people have no meaningful right to refuse and that is enforced under conditions of total control is, unquestionably, slavery. It’s a different model from the chattel slavery over which the Civil War was fought, but by all norms of international law, it is a violation of fundamental human rights.

Tulane faculty unionize

Non-tenured Tulane University faculty members have voted overwhelmingly to form a union. The group’s effort is focused on obtaining better benefits and job security and addressing significant pay disparities, among other things. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson reports on unionization efforts and potential consequences for faculty members who took part.

The group has described their compensation as “poverty wages.”  Patrick Butler, a visiting assistant professor of English, said he earns an annual salary of $45,000. The average salary in New Orleans is $65,619, according to ZipRecruiter. Butler said Brian Edwards, dean of the English department, rescinded a promotion offer to Butler that would have bumped his pay to around $60,000 a year because he was involved in the union organizing efforts. Butler has since filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the incident. 

86% – Percentage of Louisiana kindergarten students who were up to date on vaccinations in the 2023-2024 school year. Over 90% of kindergarteners were up to date on vaccinations during the 2021-2022 school year. (Source: Louisiana Department of Health via The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate)