News for Monday 021918
By Dave Graichen
The Town Talk is reporting a shortage of substitute school bus drivers in Rapides Parish has become so severe that there are days the district isn't providing transportation for some students. according to Director of Transportation Velt Edwards the shortage has been a growing problem for about three years. Among the factors compounding the issue is the district's dependence on substitutes to drive routes full-time. Some of those substitutes are quitting after a year or more of performing the same job as salaried drivers, while making $67 a day with no benefits.
The special state legislative session kicks off today to address a one billion dollar budget shortfall. Lawmakers have until March 7th to find a fix to the looming fiscal cliff or else cuts will occur in the areas of higher education and health care. Governor Edwards is calling for the replacement of the expiring sales taxes with permanent tax reform that would eliminate certain deductions for businesses, and the GOP wants spending reductions. Political analysts have warned the special session could be a political minefield, with Republicans attempting to make sure the governor does not leave with a “win” that could propel him to another term in office.
Louisiana is taking more taxes out of workers’ paychecks. The state constitution allows for it, if the federal government lowers their tax brackets, which they did last month. Baton Rouge area CPA Brandon LaGarde says The state tax wage adjustment is automatic as it is built into the Louisiana Constitution. LaGarde says your employer has nothing to do with the change. LaGarde says the federal tax break outweighs the state’s updated tax withholding tables, meaning you still take home more than you did last year.
Governor Edwards and state lawmakers are in Baton Rouge for the special session to find a solution to the looming fiscal cliff that threatens to gut popular programs like TOPS. The governor is seeking tax reform, and Republicans want spending reductions. Erath Representative Blake Miguez says the GOP caucus is demanding the creation of the Louisiana Checkbook. He says the program would increase transparency, and would closely resembles Ohio’s Ohiocheckbook.com. Along with implementing Medicaid copays, tighter eligibility, and work requirements, Miguez says he also wants to see a state spending cap that is tied to private sector economic performance.
Democrats say they will not allow a full renewal of the expiring one penny sales tax, as they feel it unfairly targets the poor.
Springtime is acceptance letter season for most college bound high school students, and the state’s budget uncertainty is causing many to rethink whether they want to attend school in Louisiana. LSU president F. King Alexander is calling on legislators to find a budget solution that funds higher ed and TOPS by the end of the February special session. Alexander says there was a noticeable impact the last time the state failed to properly fund TOPS in a timely manner. Alexander says if lawmakers wait until June to solve the one billion dollar fiscal cliff, the damage will already have been done for the 2018-2019 school year.
Many Americans are swimming in debt and getting in deeper than ever. One report suggests total household debt has risen to 13-trillion-dollars for 2017. Louisiana appears to be America’s capital of past due debt, with almost half of its residents in debt that has gone into collections. Professor of Economics at Xavier University of Louisiana Dr. Jose Bautista says a lot of workers aren’t making enough money. Another reason credit debt is so high is the lack of a savings account. Dr. Bautista says most are left with no choice but to use credit cards for emergencies, but it starts a slippery downhill slide. Medical bills are a large part of financial distress, especially if there isn’t enough insurance coverage. Dr. Bautista says get coverage to cover all your medical needs…
Debates are raging about school safety in the wake of the Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead by a mental unstable teen. Since the shooting, calls for increased mental health treatment in school have grown louder, But Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Larry Carter says when state budget cuts come in, one of the first things on the chopping block tends to be social work programs. Carter says along with an increased investment in counseling programs, we need to be taking a look at improving the layout of schools to improve security.
The Baton Rouge police officer shot by a man described as mentally ill a week ago is out of the hospital. Doctors say he should fully recover. Cpl. Shane Totty was admitted after sustaining a gunshot wound from Eugene Thomas Jr. Thomas is charged with four counts of attempted first degree murder, attempted first degree murder of a police officer and a felon in possession of a firearm.
Rough start to the baseball season, as the LSU Tigers lost two of three from Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish clinched the series victory with an 11-3 drubbing of LSU. The Bayou Bengals had a dramatic come from behind victory on Friday, but it was all downhill from there. Coach Paul Mainieri says it’s hard to find any positives…