After a year that started off with a wave of efforts to suppress the vote - many of which continue - more and more states are now looking at enacting significant reforms to modernize voter registration and protect and expand voting rights. Here's a roundup of recent developments:
Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.
On Monday, the Governor announced that some state agencies will have to reduce
their budgets by 7.5 percent next year to make way for a projected budget gap in the FY 2013-14 budget that begins on July 1, 2013. Left untouched by the budget cuts are the school-aid formula,
corrections programs, the legislative and judicial branches, Medicaid, and other health-related social services.
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed legislation extending the Bush tax cuts for households with incomes
below $250,000 ($200,000 for individuals). While the legislation won't take effect without action from the U.S. House of Representatives, some folks are expressing concern that by allowing the top
tax rate cut to expire many small business would be affected and that this would hurt the economy. This is because many small business owners pay individual income taxes.
On Thursday Gov. Tomblin stated that he needed more time and information before deciding whether or not the state
would move along with the expansion of the state's Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act. While the health reform law calls for states to increase Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent
of the federal poverty line, the Supreme Court's recent decision has made this provision optional for states.
Starting next year, the state Department of Health and Human Resources plans to cut child care subsidies, affecting 800 families and 1,400 children. According to state officials, the cuts are necessary due to a depletion of surplus federal funds and are expected to save the state $8
Could the state find $8 million in the budget to protect the subsidies and keep child care affordable for working families? I think the answer is yes.