Get ready, Louisiana taxpayers. If you encounter a need for a one-on-one meeting with a Louisiana Department of Revenue spokesperson to discuss your state taxes in the near future, you soon will be out of luck. You’ll need to juke on down to Baton Rouge or New Orleans to get face time.
Though no announcement has yet been made of a target date, LouisianaVoice has learned that all other state revenue satellite offices are being shuttered.
The closures, of course, will not affect New Orleans where the state is locked into that overpriced lease agreement with Tom Benson as part of the notorious state giveaway to keep the Saints in Louisiana. That’s the deal whereby Benson purchased the old Dominion Tower across from the Superdome with the understanding that the state would move all its New Orleans offices there and pay about twice was it was paying for its former office space.
It was not immediately known how many state employees would be affected, but suffice it to say the timing of the decision, coming as it does a week before Christmas, couldn’t be worse for Revenue staffers in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Lake Charles and Lafayette.
Having already gone for more than three years without a raise, they now face the prospects of unemployment.
Of course, certain employees have nothing to worry about. The cutbacks will only apply to the grunts, the ones who actually do the day-to-day work, the ones who have to suffer indignities from supervisors and flak from unhappy taxpayers.
This is the same agency, by the way, that hired former State Rep. Jane Smith first as Assistant Secretary at $124,446 despite her professed lack of knowledge about revenue. Upon the firing of Secretary Cynthia Bridges over that alternative fuel tax (a bill authored by smith, no less, and signed into law by Jindal), Smith was briefly promoted to secretary by Piyush.
Jindal later hired former executive counsel Tim Barfield as secretary but circumvented the state law which limited the secretary’s salary to $124,000 by also giving him the title of Executive Counsel of Revenue and bumping his salary up to a cool $250,000.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Barfield and his wife contributed $15,000 to Jindal’s campaigns in 2006 and 2010 and that one of his former employers, Amedisys, chipped in another $11,000 to the Piyush cause.
And apparently oblivious to the current state hiring freeze, the new secretary promptly went out and bought himself a chief staff in the person of Jarrod Coniglio, who “will take the lead for all of our day-to-day work and be a great help to us as we work to coordinate and execute with the highest efficiency, accuracy and customer service,” according to Barfield.
The price for his new aide that Bridges apparently never saw the need for? $115,003.
While on his shopping spree, Barfield also picked up a new press secretary: Douglas Baker at an annual salary of $105,997.
True to form in the Piyush administration, efforts to contact the newly-appointed Revenue press secretary for more detailed information about the office shut-downs and accompanying layoffs were unsuccessful.