Speaker of the House Taylor Barras shares efficiency reform measures
On Tuesday, Louisiana’s Speaker of the House, Representative Taylor Barras (R) shared “spending and efficiency reform measures that many House members consider top priorities in determining solutions to our budget shortfall.”
In an e-mail to Governor John Bel Edwards (D), Barras wrote, “As we continue our evaluation of options to solve our current shortfall, reforms relating to improvements in budgeting, spending and efficiencies are critical to a final solution.”
In the e-mail, the Speaker of the House provided an outline of reform recommendations relating to calculation of the State’s expenditure limit, creation of the Louisiana Checkbook to further enhance the current LaTrac reporting system, and Medicaid program reforms relating to work requirements, cost sharing/copay and eligibility efficiencies.
As it relates to LaTrac, which was the first online spending website in Louisiana’s history, a majority of House members would like to “revamp LaTrac in three ways” to “enable citizens to engage in a much deeper level with both state and local spending.”
According to Barras, House members wish to have “more detail on individual expenditures, credit card transactions, additional contracts with more information on scope, salaries of state employees, and details on debt including pensions and capital.”
The second way they would like to revamp the Louisiana Checkbook is by including the finances “far beyond the initial 20 state agencies.” The House would like to see financial information from “the judicial and legislative branches, boards and commissions, and eventually local government” included for LaTrac.
The third change Barras said he and House members would like to see happen deals with how the site functions.
According to Barras, they want to add “features such as visual simplicity, charts and graphs, exporting to Excel, a mobile and tablet mode, and sharing on social media.”
When it comes to the State expenditure limit, a majority of the House wish to have a constitutional amendment and statute proposing a change in the calculation of the limit cap.
Barras suggested that this be done by a statute that will “establish a growth factor for the level of state spending.”
The growth factor would be determined by “using the combined three-year average growth rates of Louisiana’s population, the southern US consumer price index, total revenue growth rate and growth rate of Louisiana personal income.”
The growth rate would be “applied to the prior year’s total appropriation to set the new spending cap.”
According to Barras’s e-mail, a “proposed amendment would retain the legislature’s ability to raise the cap with a 2/3 vote of the Legislature.” A reduction in the spending cap would have to also be done the same way.
In terms of Medicaid work requirements, Barras said, that he and other House members would like to implement new requirements for individuals participating in the Medicaid program.
According to the e-mail, the new requirements will make it to where no individual shall be eligible to participate in the Medicaid program unless that individual is “working 20 hours or more per week, averaged monthly; participating in and complying with the requirements of a work program 20 hours or more per week; volunteering 20 hours or more per week, as determined by the agency; meeting any combination of working and/or participating in a work program for a total of 20 hours or more per week, as determined by the agency; and participating and complying with the requirements of a workfare program, or exempt from the work requirement under ‘exemptions.’”
In Barras’s e-mail, it also states that the Medicaid work requirements would not apply to an individual if he or she is “under the age of 19; over the age of 64; medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment; is pregnant; a parent or caretaker responsible for the care of a dependent child under the age of one; a parent or caretaker personally providing the care for a dependent child with serious medical conditions or with a disability, as determined by the agency; receiving unemployment compensation and complying with work requirements that are part of the Federal-State unemployment system; and participating in a drug addiction or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation program.”
As it relates to Medicaid, House members have also requested that the governor require the Louisiana Department of Health to “reduce the reasonably compatibility standard,” which is currently set at 25 percent.
Under the 25 pct. standard, “if an applicant’s self reported income is within 25 pct. of their actual income level (as checked against Workforce Commission data), then the self-reported income level is accepted as accurate.”
In the e-mail it states “roughly half the states set the reasonable compatibility standard at zero, while others set it at 10 percent.”
Barras and House members are also seeking the implementation of a “co-pay requirement for non-emergency use of hospital emergency departments.”
According to Barras, “each of these measures will be made part of any revenue enhancements that are considered,” and “House members feel strongly about coupling these reforms to revenue measures being proposed in an effort to achieve a balanced solution to the existing shortfall.”
The Speaker of the House said, “To steer our great state away from the cliff, we must all sit down together in good faith and be fiscally responsible, no partisan.”
In his closing, Barras stated, “I remain confident that all House members will continue working to find a balanced solution that is fair and equitable for our Louisiana taxpayers.”