When spring rolls around and magnolias begin to bloom, we all know that means one thing: the Louisiana Legislature will be convening in Baton Rouge for their annual Regular Session.
This year, being an odd number year, it is a fiscal session that focuses on tax and other fiscal matters—many of which can have an impact on our ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population. These bills include tax credits, exemptions, and our main focus, early childhood education and the revenue source that could be tapped into through sports wagering.
With the legalization of sports wagering, bills were filed in the Legislature to form the tax structure that will handle the revenue generated. Ready Louisiana, a coalition dedicated to investment in early education, is advocating for the revenue generated by sports wagering to be dedicated to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund. The Fund offers local entities a dollar-for-dollar match at the state level to fund early education programs. The initiative is asking for Louisiana to bet on Louisiana’s children and allow the fund to absorb all of some of the proceeds.
Other focuses for this session include tax reform at the income and corporate level. Many of these bills will focus on flat rates, streamlining the sales tax structure for businesses, and even credits and exemptions.
One of these credits is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). HB 660 by Representative Jason Hughes increases the amount of the EITC to 50% of the person’s income who doesn’t have a qualifying child, is at least 18 years of age but less than 25 or is 65 years old. The bill would apply for tax years beginning January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2024. The EITC is one of the main tax credits our VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) clients are able to attain.
Another bill that would greatly affect the ALICE population, particularly women, is HB 7 by Representative Aimee Freeman. This bill would exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from the entire state sales and use tax, which would become permanent if passed. Diapers include those for children and adults.
Senate Bill 10 (SB 10) would require that children who are age five (5) on or before September 30th attend a full year of kindergarten and pass an academic readiness screening to be admitted to first grade in a public school. The bill instates the requirement beginning with the 2022-2023 school year and compulsory school attendance will begin at age five (5) instead of age seven (7).
There are plenty of other bills that will affect daily life and access to state services such as HB 1, which is the state operating budget.
Lastly, our Early Ed Day at the Capitol is Tuesday, May 18! While we won’t be able to gather at the Capitol like we have in the past, your voice is as important as ever. This toolkit will provide you with the ability to view the press conference that will take place, be involved in social media advocacy, and even reach out to legislators to advocate for Early Childhood Education funding. We look forward to your participation in this outreach to help ALICE families have secure, quality and adequately funded childcare resources.
The 2021 Regular Session must adjourn by 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 10.