Gov. Jeff Landry’s administration has asked the Board of Regents to prepare for a cut of $250 million in state support next year as a temporary .45-cent sales tax rolls off the books as scheduled on July 1, 2025. A cut of that magnitude would represent about 20% of the $1.3 billion in state general fund dollars that public colleges and universities are set to receive in the 2024-25 budget year. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Ashley White explains

The Legislature created a one-cent sales tax in 2016 to help dig that state out of a $2-billion deficit. When that tax was set to expire in 2018, which would have caused huge budget cuts, the Legislature agreed on a .45-cent sales tax that would raise $420 million annually. But that tax sunsets on June 30, 2025. If it isn’t renewed, higher education leaders and the Board of Regents are anticipating they’ll receive a large brunt of cuts the Legislature will have to make to create a balanced budget. 

Reality check: Higher education is uniquely vulnerable to cuts during financial downturns because college and university funding isn’t protected in the same way as other areas of the state budget. But the cuts are far from inevitable. The Legislature can – and should –  either renew the expiring sales tax or replace that revenue with other sources of revenue.

A bill awaiting Gov. Jeff Landry’s signature would help alleviate debilitating debt from the state’s Office of Motor Vehicles. Rep. Chuck Owens’ House Bill 683 received bipartisan support from lawmakers during the recently concluded legislative session. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Meghan Friedmann explains

Currently, uncollected OMV fines are sent to the Office of Debt Recovery, which accelerates the debt HB 683 would allow the OMV to claw that debt back from ODR and lower the fines, [OMV Commissioner Dan] Casey said. “We have a very cruel system in Louisiana that allows for fees that you may not know you have to rapidly increase,” Owen said when asked why he filed HB 683.

Friedmann explains how OMV debt can spiral:

Much of the debt drivers owe to the OMV is due to insurance lapses. If the OMV receives notice that a driver’s insurance has been canceled, they issue a $125 fine. If the driver does not pay the fine within 90 days or get on a payment plan to do so, the debt gets sent to the Office of Debt Recovery and is set to the maximum $500 fee, Casey said. Once it is transferred to the ODR, that agency adds an extra 15% charge. Until this year, the charge was 25%. 

Louisiana recently became the sixth state to allow teachers to use right-wing “edu-tainment” videos in public classrooms. The content from PragerU has been described as inaccurate by historians and right-wing propaganda by other critics. The Washington Post’s Hannah Natanson and Laura Meckler explain how the rise of the right-wing nonprofit is part of a nationwide conservative movement to influence how controversial topics, such as slavery, are taught in public schools: 

After the coronavirus pandemic prompted widespread remote learning, many conservatives began complaining that instruction was left-leaning, spurring lawmakers in mostly red states to pass more than 70 laws restricting what teachers can say about race, racism, history, sexual orientation and gender identity, a Washington Post analysis found. PragerU’s reach and funding exploded alongside these political battles over education.

Rising wages are catching up to inflation

There is a disconnect between the strong performance of the U.S. economy and the financial situation of everyday Americans. While economic reports show record-breaking numbers on jobs and unemployment, nearly half of people report their own financial situation is worsening. The main driver of this pessimism is rising prices from inflation. But as Brookings’ Joshua Gotbaum explains, politicians, the news media and others need to start focusing on rising wages, not just inflated prices: 

The most important reason is that, in fact, wages are catching up to inflation. As pandemic-related inflation took off in 2021 and 2022, wages fell behind—but not for long. For almost two years,4 depending on the measure, average wages have been gaining on inflation. Real wages are now, on average, higher than they were before the pandemic. The president doesn’t highlight that, or even mention it.5 Nor do most stories about the economy. … Nonetheless, I suspect most people would feel better about the economy if they knew that wages are catching up to inflation. Maybe someone should let them know.

55% – Percentage of Louisiana residents who think the state isn’t doing enough to protect the quality of the state’s air and water. A large majority of residents (75%) support an expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling. (Source: Louisiana Survey)