19 March 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Prefiled bills -- Week of Mar. 18, 2005

THE GOOD: Considering it comes from the arrogant Sen. Rob Marionneaux (he of the famous carping about baseball tickets which led to his feud with the media over their reporting about it), not only does SB 18 make a lot of sense, it revists his subject of shame, sports. This bill would wipe out any state aid to the New Orleans Saints. Presumably, it would invalidate the state assistance the club receives now, and remove direct aid entirely from the current debate about the state and the Saints. Being that the state is projected to pay tens of millions of dollars a year over the next several years to the club, this bill would save the state considerably even if the Saints left and took their smaller portion of state tax revenues with them.

THE BAD: SB 17 by Sen. Cleo Fields tries to increase income tax credit benefits for child care and dependent care expenses, biased in the direction of lower incomes, and increases the propensity of this policy to redistribute income (essentially by making such expenditures, adjusted by the formula involved in computing the credit, payable out from the state to the spenders on this purpose if all credits exceed income tax liability -- the state pays in cash the excess of credit over liability). This is very questionable policy both in terms of the impact on government revenues and in terms of the wealth redistribution it would encourage (never mind the boondoggle it would provide to the child-care industry), but where the bill really goes off the rails is in its treatment of the credit for those caring for a disabled dependent. Basically, those unlucky enough to have a disabled dependent with low incomes get a lot of the credit counted, while those who are doubly unlucky to a disabled dependent and make too much money get nothing.

Nobody asks to have a dependent who is disabled, which almost always is a result of bad luck and circumstances beyond the control of the family of the disabled person and that person. So why should people in this situation be discriminated against because of income? It's a variant of the sad philosophy that higher-income people, who are making a greater contribution to society than are lower income people, somehow didn't achieve their way into that position, but rather they got "lucky" and so government shouldn't give them the same relief for the same misfortune. Costs on an annual basis for caring for somebody disabled can wipe out the income and savings even of the highest-income individuals (often causing them to go on state assistance), making this a bill, in its present form, that should never see the light of day.

THE UGLY: One reason bills qualify for this category is they carve out specialized exceptions, and HB 58 does so in respect to funds the state no longer spends on the closed Swanson Correctional Center for Youth-Madison Parish Unit facility at Tallulah. Actually, it's just part of the larger problem, for Rep. Lelon Kenney's bill only wishes to add a parish, Franklin, to those of East Carroll, West Carroll, Madison, Richland, and Tensas which already by law can receive funding for alternative programs for adjudicated juveniles from this. Yes, I'm sure some economic hardship was created in these parishes when the much-criticized facility shut down, jobs from it being lost, but the facility itself probably had little to do with juvenile justice in those parishes, so this artificial connection was made to steer money to these parishes. The law in its entirety should be repealed, and monies sent to these or any other parish for juvenile justice ought to take place within the semi-rationality of the regular budgetary process, not from this irrational semi-dedication of funds.

SCORECARD: House -- 58 prefiles (including the coming budget bills), 1 withdrawal; Senate -- 18 prefiles, 1 withdrawal.

No comments: