The vast majority – 99% – of Louisiana tax filers who use state tax credits to reroute their tax dollars from public programs to private and religious schools hail from households making more than $200,000 per year. The figure comes from a new Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) report that uses state-level data to break down the household income of people who use school voucher tax credits. ITEP’s Carl Davis explains how the program works: 

Voucher tax credits reimburse individuals and businesses for “donations” they make to organizations that give out vouchers for free or reduced tuition at private K-12 schools—the overwhelming majority of which are religious in nature. Unlike charitable gifts to other causes where taxpayers save less than 10 cents in state taxes for every dollar donated, these supersized incentives often give private school “donors” their full donation back. … In all three states providing data—Arizona, Louisiana, and Virginia—more than half of all voucher tax credits are flowing to families with annual incomes over $200,000. Virginia and Louisiana’s credits are especially skewed toward these high-income families because of very high caps on the maximum amount of credit that can be claimed per taxpayer.

“Procedural” hurdles plague food assistance program 
More than 4 in 5 Louisianans who lose access to federal food benefits are kicked out of the program for “procedural” reasons – not because they make too much money – according to a new report from Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor. The report also found that error rates in the administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) skyrocketed during the pandemic as caseloads increased and the state Department of Children and Family Services experienced chronic staffing shortages. 

The study further stated that for participants, in addition to experiencing food insecurity, the loss of benefits results in broader financial insecurity for SNAP churners. For example, in having to commit more of their scarce income for food, churners were less able to pay important bills such as their utilities or rent. According to DCFS, churn rates declined significantly starting in March 2020 due to COVID-19 flexibilities that extended certification periods, meaning DCFS delayed the redetermination process.

Reality check: SNAP caseloads grew quickly during the pandemic as unemployment spiked, but have been coming down in recent months. And starting March 1, monthly food benefits for Louisianans decreased by an average of $164 as federal emergency allotments expired. 

A plan to preserve Medicare 
President Joe Biden laid out his plan on Tuesday for keeping Medicare funded until the middle of the century. The White House’s plan, included in the president’s 2024 budget proposal, would raise taxes on individuals making more than $400,000 per year and reduce government spending for some prescription drugs. The popular program faces serious financial problems before the end of the decade unless tax increases or cuts are used to address its shortfall. Biden lays out his plan in a guest column for the New York Times. 

My budget will build on drug price reforms by strengthening Medicare’s newly established negotiation power, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for more drugs and bringing drugs into negotiation sooner after they launch. That’s another $200 billion in deficit reduction. We will then take those savings and put them directly into the Medicare trust fund. … Second, let’s ask the wealthiest to pay just a little bit more of their fair share, to strengthen Medicare for everyone over the long term. My budget proposes to increase the Medicare tax rate on earned and unearned income above $400,000 to 5 percent from 3.8 percent

The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein explains the contrast Biden is trying to show between the White House and the Republican party on preserving popular federal programs. 

President Biden’s introduction of a Medicare financing plan aims for a direct contrast with the GOP, which has weighed cuts to the program while also criticizing the administration for approving legislation last year aimed at reining in spending on prescription drugs. The White House’s plan amplifies the high political stakes of Medicare and Social Security — by far the two biggest federal programs — ahead of the 2024 presidential election. 

Debt ceiling default would cripple economy 
The chief economist of Moody’s Analytics will warn a Senate panel on Tuesday of the catastrophic consequences if Congress does not raise the nation’s borrowing limit. Mark Zandi will tell lawmakers that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised – and America can’t pay back its creditors – the U.S. economy could quickly shed a million jobs and fall into recession. The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley reports: 

The damage could spiral to seven million jobs lost and a 2008-style financial crisis in the event of a prolonged breach of the debt limit, in which House Republicans refuse for months to join Democrats in voting to raise the cap, Mr. Zandi and his colleagues Cristian deRitis and Bernard Yaros wrote in an analysis prepared for the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Policy. 

Number of the Day
1,202,816 – Number of Louisianans whose Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits were cut off for non-financial “procedural” reasons between the 2018 and 2022 federal fiscal years. Most people (59.1%) had their benefits restored within 90 days. (Source: Louisiana Legislative Auditor)