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Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

 

By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

I became the state budget director in 1988.  Because we had consistently spent more than we had taken in since 1984, we faced a $1 Billion dollar budget and cash flow hole in a budget less than half the size of today’s.  We literally did not have the money to pay our day-to-day bills and, like too many of our citizens, had to hold off paying them until we had the cash.  We were flat busted.

In an effort to ensure this never happened again, we enacted a comprehensive package of budget reforms, including establishing  an official revenue forecast; prohibiting the use of one-time money for recurring expenses; requiring a balanced budget from initial presentation through enactment  and to be maintained throughout the year; providing that any interfund borrowing (the mechanism that enabled us to go totally broke in 1988) had to be repaid by the end of the year in which it was borrowed, and many others.

To address the immediate emergency, we took the unprecedented step of creating a special taxing district that issued bonds we paid back over 10 years by dedicating one cent of our sales tax to debt service.

We began to diversify our economic revenue base.  For example, we went from a 40% reliance on mineral revenues to a less than 10% reliance on them today.  We raised other taxes, including, most notably, sales taxes.

We took full advantage of a federal Medicaid program paying high rates to facilities serving a disproportionate share of poor people (we made an annual “profit” of $700 million from this program during its peak).

We enacted the lottery, riverboat, and land-based casino gambling.

All of these kept us going until 1995 when our economy finally began to perform really well and did so through 1998.  Our economy slowed down in 1999 and it was necessary to pass more taxes.

In 2002, the legislature passed, and the state’s voters approved a plan by Representative Vic Stelly that substituted increases in income taxes for 4 cents of sales taxes on food and utilities and placed these exemptions, along with those on pharmaceuticals, in the state constitution.  The reason:  Because sales taxes are regressive and because income taxes generally respond better to our economy than sales taxes.  In my opinion, and that of many others, the Stelly Plan was the best fiscal legislation passed in our history.

We were doing pretty well until 2005 when Katrina struck.  Ironically, recovery from Katrina fueled our economy to the point that by the time Governor Jindal took office in 2007, we had a $1.1 Billion surplus.  Governor Blanco’s last proposed budget was $29.2 billion, of which over $8.0 billion was disaster relief money.  The legislature enacted a $32 Billion budget that year, including the $8.0 billion in non-recurring money.

So, what happened?

Well, remember those laws we passed to ensure we engaged in sound budgetary practices?  We began to ignore them and we spent the $1.1 Billion surplus and every other pot of one-time money we could find.  We repealed HALF, NOT ALL, of Stelly – the income tax increases that would be generating about what we lose in the sales tax exemptions still on the books today -about $700 million.

We cut corporate taxes in half – by a cool Billion.

We pretended we had a balanced budget every year, but using common sense and the letter of the laws we enacted, it is clear we, in fact, DID NOT.  And, although cuts were made – state funding to higher education, as one example, has been cut by $500 million – we NEVER made the cuts necessary to balance recurring spending with recurring revenue.  Why?  According to Kristy Nichols, Commissioner of Administration, as quoted in 2013, doing so would result in “needless reductions to critical services.”  WHAT?  Are you saying you didn’t cut the budget because you couldn’t?  Or, are you for cutting the budget, but you really don’t want to do so?

Governor Jindal continues to be widely quoted, to this day, saying we need to live within our means.  If that is true, why does he not present budgets that do so?  As long as projected revenues from reliable, stable sources do not equal projected necessary expenditures, we will NEVER have a balanced budget.

Could anything possibly be simpler, or make more sense, than balancing what you plan to spend with what is coming in so you don’t dig a hole for yourself?

It is certainly easy to understand why it is difficult to make hard cuts when cash is, or even may be available, but willfully allowing gross fiscal instability to continue indefinitely is a violation of the public trust and ultimately leads to wasteful spending and the inability to see true inefficiencies because the fiscal house is always on fire.  It is beyond time we were presented with an honest budget on which to make honest decisions.

So, you might rightly ask, “How would you fill the $1.6 Billion hole we read about every day in the papers?”

There are an almost infinite number of ways to do so.  Here’s one:

$1.600 reported gap

($0.160): Don’t Fund Inflation and other continuation costs. We rarely do, anyhow.

($0.180): Make cuts pursuant to consultant “efficiency” recommendations. We ought to get something for the $7 million we blew on this contract.

($0.100): Increase tobacco tax to the southern average

($0.700): Restore the income tax provisions of the Stelly Plan

($0.149): Eliminate the refundable tax credits proposed by the governor, except the inventory credit.

($0.100): Cap film tax credits at $150 million

($0.200): Eliminate exemption from severance taxes on horizontal wells. This was new technology when the exemption was granted. It certainly isn’t now, so no incentive is needed.

($0.011): A rounding figure, based on the Executive Budget. Or do $11 million of the $415 million in strategic cuts recommended by the governor – or, dozens of other possibilities.

$0.000 Remaining Problem.

Too simple, right?   And, perhaps, other holes could be poked in my scenario as well, but it proves it is possible to take a pragmatic approach, combining cuts with a limited number of revenue measures for a relatively simple solution.  We often make things a lot more complicated than they are.  I am convinced our government leaders often make simple things complicated in hope citizens won’t know and question what’s going on.

Regardless of what happens we must have an honest budget. If balancing recurring expenses with recurring revenues means making draconian cuts, so be it. Because they have been misled repeatedly, the bulk of our citizens will never believe we have a problem (or one that can’t simply be solved with cuts) until they experience the reality of a true “reform” budget that raises no revenues and cuts services to achieve balance. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that, but it may be the only path to real reform.

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My friend Walter Abbott up in Ruston seems to have a problem with any public employee as does, apparently State Rep. John “Jay” Morris, III (R-Monroe).

Abbott, as I, publishes a political blog and that certainly is his—or anyone’s—right. But the thing that he can’t seem to get around is his constant habit of labeling any public employee as a “deadhead.” In fact, he never refers to public employees, be they teachers, law enforcement officers, firemen, or highway construction crews, as anything but “deadheads.”

I’m not certain what Walter does for a living, but I would assume his work is essential and not of the “deadhead” status. But one can never be sure. Sometimes one creates a deliberate smokescreen (such as name-calling) as a tactic to deflect attention from himself. Again, I don’t know that, I’m just sayin’…..

Walter’s post today (March 31) provides a link to a story by Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Elizabeth Crisp which said that Louisiana college and university students plan to demonstrate at the state Capitol on April 15 as a protest to anticipated draconian cuts to higher education appropriations for the coming year.

But Walter, in his classic inimitable parsing of nomenclature, says in the headline to his blog: “Student Mob to Protest on Behalf of Deadheads.”

Student Mob? Seriously, Walter? You know with absolute certainty that these students will be roving bands of vandals, possibly armed, intent on rape and pillage and assorted other forms of crimes against humanity? Hell, Abbott, you’re better than the entire Justice League. Perhaps we need to make you an official state deadhead and bring you to Baton Rouge or New Orleans or Shreveport to fight crime—in advance with your gift of clairvoyance, of course. Which city? No problem; with your obvious skill at predicting the future, you need only tip off the deadhead law enforcement agencies in each city when a crime is about to take place.

And about that “deadhead” term you so love to toss around: I can only assume that you’ve drunk the Ted Cruz/Scott Walker/Rand Paul tea party Kool-Aid which finds all things public to be anathema.

In a previous blog you referred to teachers as “deadheads.” Well, Walt, unless I’m mistaken, a teacher taught you to read and write, which enables you to now turn on those same dedicated people by calling them “deadheads.”

Let me enlighten you about teachers, Walt, because you obviously do not know the facts or you choose to ignore them. Besides the problem that all teachers face, namely the constant push and pull from politicians who seem to think they have all the answers and rush in with ill-advised education “reform” measures, there are these specifics:

  • Kindergarten and elementary teachers: Not only must they teach, but they also have to do lesson plans, grade papers at night (after cooking for the family and cleaning house and helping their own kids with homework), contend with kids who can’t keep up in class because their lazy or irresponsible, drug-addled parents won’t take the initiative to help the kids at home, then attempt to appease those same parents who want to shift the blame for the kids’ poor grades onto the teacher. They daily see these same children come to school hungry or unbathed—or both. In addition to all these duties is the constant paperwork that must be filled out by teachers and as they perform all these tasks, they often are called upon to wipe snotty noses and wipe soiled behinds. Summer vacation? Fugetaboutit. That three-month vacation you always hear about is a myth. When school is out, classrooms must be cleaned, books put away, furniture stacked against the wall so janitorial crews can move in to do their jobs and by the time all that is done, it’s time to start planning the new school year.
  • Middle school teachers: One might think that middle school is a breeze but this is where kids grow into puberty, where cliques are formed and where little teen-age girls snipe at each other behind their backs. It ain’t pretty. As these children grow from adolescence into teens, attitudes are formed and teachers must deal with that reality on a daily basis. Moreover, remember those kids from elementary school who were lagging behind? Well some of them are older than their classmates because sadly, they had to be held back one or more grades. But they’re falling even further behind and it becomes the middle school teacher’s task to confront angry parents who won’t accept their own role in educating their own children. And that paperwork didn’t go away in elementary school. Neither do the late night paper grading sessions.
  • High school teachers: By now, the slower students have become a real challenge. Not only do they refuse to do their assignments and fall even further behind before eventually dropping out of school (and teachers consider every dropout a personal loss, some might even say a failure). But those who remain have by now developed really nasty attitudes (often encouraged at home by parents who still refuse to accept responsibility) and teacher-student confrontations often occur that sometimes become physical, placing the teacher in danger of bodily harm.

So there you have your teacher “deadheads,” Walt. But you know what? Through it all, they persevere at salaries most likely considerably less than what you make, because teaching is not an occupation, it’s a calling, and these educators are dedicated to that calling—something you obviously do not comprehend or care to.

But Walt insists on attaching that label to all public employees. Well, Walt, I was one of those “deadheads” for 20 years, working as a claims adjuster for the Office of Risk Management.

And being completely candid, I was far from being the best adjuster in the office (even though I was once told that I was by a member of management in his somewhat feeble effort at blowing smoke up my toga—some form of weird motivation, I suppose) but despite my many shortcomings (I love writing more than insurance), I still managed to help save the state several millions of dollars in bogus claims. To that end, despite my habitual failure to keep my diary updated and my distaste for insurance, I still managed to justify my salary many, many times over.

Finally, Walter, I would ask that you consider this in the future when dealing with these “deadheads”:

  • When you find a pothole in your street that tears up your vehicle’s front end, call a tea partier, not the highway department—they’re deadheads;
  • Same thing when you observe litter along the streets and highways;
  • When your sewer line backs up because of a lack of maintenance because the deadheads have been laid off, call a tea partier;
  • When you discover rust and other substances in your water line for that same reason, call a tea partier;
  • When your neighbor knocks down your fence and refuses to pay for it, don’t bother filing suit. Those courtroom employees, including the judge, are deadheads. Call a tea partier.
  • When your house catches fire, don’t call the fire department. They’re just a bunch of deadheads. Call the tea partiers;
  • When you or a family member is being assaulted by some thug, the police department, staffed with deadheads, is obviously the wrong call. The tea party will set things right for you.

Count on it.

As for Rep. Morris, his recent comments constitute a classic example of shooting the messenger.

He, like Jindal’s former chief of staff, now president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), Stephen Waguespack (the same one who leaned on Murphy Painter to ignore Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control regulations in that issue over the Budweiser tent at Jindal contributor Tom Benson’s Champion’s Square), doesn’t feel that Bob Mann retains the right of free speech under the First Amendment simply because he’s on the payroll of LSU.

Rep. Morris, you are an attorney and as such you of all people should be at the front of the line to defend that right. Instead, you choose to jump into the fray based on another blog, that of Scott McKay’s The Hayride. http://thehayride.com/2015/03/twitter-tough-guy-bob-mann-takes-on-labi-over-waguespacks-column/

McKay and Morris wax indignant that Mann has the audacity to write—on his own time—a column for the New Orleans Times-Picayune while teaching (this semester) one class because of the necessity to care for his wife who is ill.

Of all things, Morris chooses to compare Mann’s salary to that of a public school teacher who he says works for a paltry $32,000 a year. Well, isn’t it in the legislature’s power to increase those salaries? Has Rep. Morris ever, even once, made a move to raise the pay for teachers? Or instead, was he one of 53 House members who voted to kill House Bill 645 by Rep. Marcus Hunter (D-Monroe) to raise the state minimum wage? See for yourself: HB 645 VOTE

Rep. Morris, you can’t have it both ways: you can’t use teachers’ salaries against Bob Mann if you’ve never attempted to rectify the gaping disparity yourself. That comes under the heading of hypocrite. Don’t be so smug in jumping on Mann’s case as a means of questioning LSU’s budget while defending NLU perhaps because some of that university’s employees might be your constituents whom you don’t want to offend.

Rep. Morris asks the rhetorical question: “How are we polititians (sic) supposed to raise revenue to save higher ed when there might be a whole lot of waste?” Shouldn’t that be a question for you, as a representative of the people, to sort out? Have you and other legislators been asleep at the wheel so long that waste occurs right under your collective, oblivious noses?

If you are so concerned about waste, don’t you think it might have been a good idea for you to have checked the campaign expenditures of Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge) before you contributed $1,000 to his campaign, and who in turn contributed $1,000 to the campaign of Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales)? Do you really think their expenditures of $15,405 and $9,660, respectively, to purchase of LSU football and softball tickets from 2010 through 2014 was the most judicious use of their campaign funds? Could that perhaps be included in your sanctimonious, somewhat selective definition of waste?

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS:

Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. JOHN C JAY MORRIS III FOR STATE REP  2705 OAK DR MONROE, LA 71201 CONTRIBUTION 6/28/2012 $1,000.00
Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay FRIENDS OF ERICH PONTI CAMPAIGN Thibodeaux Ave Baton Rouge, LA 70806 CONTRIBUTION 11/14/2011 $1,000.00

CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES:

Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS PO BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70894-5905 TICKETS 5/13/2014 $3,310.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA 2012 FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS/PARKING 4/20/2012 $3,130.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ATHLETIC ADMINISTRATION BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 5/5/2013 $3,110.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS c/o Speakers’ Office LA State Capital Baton Rouge, LA 70801 2010 Legislative Football Tickets 4/21/2010 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 4/26/2011 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 6/6/2011 $950.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA LSU FOOTBALL TICKETS 1/4/2012 $905.00
Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ALTHLETIC BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 TICKETS 4/11/2014 $3,210.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 TAFT donation and tickets 5/23/2012 $3,135.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 tickets 5/22/2013 $3,115.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSUE SOFTBALL 2048 JOHNSON HWY EUNICE, LA 70535 DONATION 12/3/2014 $200.00

We’re just saying people who live in glass houses…

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prevaricator

[pri-var-i-key-ter] /prɪˈvær ɪˌkeɪ tər/

noun

  1. a person who speaks falsely; liar.
  2. a person who speaks so as to avoid the precise truth; quibbler; equivocator.

Bobby Jindal loves to throw around the “L-word.”

So much so that we at LouisianaVoice are beginning to let it creep into our vocabulary when writing about Bobby.

Of course, his “L-word” and our “L-word” have completely different meanings.

For him, it’s invoked when reacting to the “Liberal” media’s calling him out on his claims of being the savior for Louisiana’s health care, education, economy, ethics and general well-being.

For us, the “L-word” denotes Liar, as pathological Liar.

A pathological liar is defined as an abnormally habitual liar, or a person who lies to the point that it is considered a disease or condition. That would be Bobby Jindal, the man who took ideas from medical experts when he headed up the Department of Health and Hospitals, implemented those ideas and called them his own.

Before you get the wrong idea, we don’t reside in a dream world where the sun is always shining and the grass is always green. We know politicians lie. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards once said it went with his job.

We understand that just as we can predict that in the upcoming gubernatorial election, one of the candidates is certain to stretch the truth a bit by claiming that then-State Rep. David Vitter’s vote against tabling House Bill 1013 way back in 1993 was because he supported gay rights. http://louisianavoice.com/

Anyone who knows Vitter knows better than that (maybe hooker rights, but that’s another story for another day). His voting not to table the bill that would have made it illegal for employers or insurers to discriminate based on sexual orientation was merely an effort to keep the bill alive for full floor debate where it was certain to have been defeated.

But Bobby Jindal elevates lying to an art form At least he tries to, but his prevarications are so disingenuous as to appear laughable—except the joke is on us.

Take that letter that Jindal recently wrote to the New York Times http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/bobby_jindal_defends_his_recor.html#incart_river  in response to the paper’s editorial about governors being unable to hide from their records http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/opinion/sunday/governors-can-run-but-they-cant-hide.html?_r=0 and the column about the Jindal implosion http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/23/opinion/charles-blow-gov-jindals-implosion.html by  Times writer Charles Blow who just happens to be from the north Louisiana town of Gibsland and who was a Grambling State University honor graduate.

In that letter, Jindal repeated the claim that he had cut the state payroll by “30,000 workers.”

Liar.

The Louisiana Office of Civil Services issues monthly layoff reports and contained in that monthly report is a year-by-year accounting of the number of civil service positions eliminated and the number of employees laid off. February 2015 Layoff Report

Since Fiscal Year 2008, which began six months prior to Jindal’s taking office in January of 2008, through the end February 2015, there have been a grand total of 13,577 positions eliminated and 8,396 employees laid off. The difference is apparently 5,181 eliminated positions were already vacant and simply not filled. Taking either number, you have far fewer than half the 30,000 claimed by Jindal.

“This fiscal responsibility resulted in eight straight upgrades by the major credit agencies,” he said in his letter, while neglecting to mention that two major rating agencies, Moody’s and Stand & Poor’s recently moved the state’s credit outlook from stable to negative while threatening the more severe action of a downgrade. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/02/14/two-major-investment-rating-firms-downgrade-louisiana-to-negative-state-is-now-officially-at-the-financial-end-game/

“And what did lower taxes do for our economy? They spurred growth,” he said. “Louisiana now has higher incomes…”

Liar.

The state’s per capita income while increasing 1.1 percent from 2012 to 2013, has actually decreased overall since 2008 and continues to lag nearly $3,500 behind the national average while the median family income decreased by more than $2,500 and trailed the national median family income by more than $8,000. http://www.deptofnumbers.com/income/louisiana/

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/09/louisiana_ranks_poorly_on_late.html

Were it not for Mississippi and the District of Columbia, Louisiana’s poverty rate (by household income) of 18.3 percent would be the highest in the nation. (Mississippi’s poverty rate is 20.1 percent and D.C. has a poverty rate of 20.7 percent.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_poverty_rate

Moreover, our already stratospheric poverty rate is continuing to rise. http://www.labudget.org/lbp/2013/09/poverty-on-the-rise-in-louisiana/

“…more jobs…”

Liar.

The February unemployment rate for Louisiana (the latest figures available) was 6.7 percent, compared to 5.5 percent for the rest of the country. The rate was 4 percent when Jindal took office but three years into his first term, the rate had risen to 8 percent before dropping below 6 percent in 2014 and spiking again this year. http://www.deptofnumbers.com/unemployment/louisiana/

“…and more people than we’ve ever had in the history of our state.”

Perhaps, but when those who were evacuated to other states in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita return, that does not signify population growth. That’s just folks coming home after a hiatus of a few years.

But no matter. Jindal long ago staked out his position on immigration reform. http://www.ontheissues.org/Governor/Bobby_Jindal_Immigration.htm

But while he is claiming “more people than we’ve ever had in the history of our state,” he may wish to take a closer look at what the numbers mean.

Yes, it’s true that the state’s population grew by 64,396 (an increase of 1.44 percent from 2000 to 2010). But the state actually lost 20,426 (-.47 percent) in the number of residents “not Hispanic or Latino origin” while registering a gain of 84,822 (78.7 percent increase) in the number of people of “Hispanic or Latino origin.” http://censusviewer.com/state/LA

How’re you gonna square those numbers with your stand on immigration reform, Bobby? You can’t very well boast of population growth and decry the influx of Hispanics in the face of those facts.

“A larger gross domestic product…”

Shoot, on this we don’t even beat Mississippi. Of the 12 states in the Southeast Region, our GDP ranks eighth and barely nudges out Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina. http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_state/2014/gspSE_glance.htm

Back in February, Jindal told a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor that Louisiana’s higher education budget “is actually a little bit, just slightly, higher than when I took office.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/02/11/jindals-claim-that-louisianas-higher-education-budget-is-slightly-higher/

“Wait. Wha…?

LIAR!

No, Bobby, that’s a DAMN LIE!

Anyone who can make that claim with a straight face has some serious mental issues of either being unable to separate face from fantasy or of just being unable to tell the truth—even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Even the Washington Post, for whom he often pens his op-ed pieces when not stumping for the Republican presidential nomination, called him out on that one. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/02/11/jindals-claim-that-louisianas-higher-education-budget-is-slightly-higher/

Remember when Jindal promised that premiums for the Office of Group Benefits would not increase and benefits would not decrease under his privatization plan?

Liar.

And remember how he told us that health care for the state’s poor population would actually improve and the state would save millions by jettisoning those burdensome state hospitals?

Liar.

Team Jindal moves toward developing a medical corridor along Bluebonnet Boulevard and Essen Lane in South Baton Rouge while creating a medical wasteland north of Government Street (thereby protecting medical care for the affluent population but not so much for the poorer, largely black population of North Baton Rouge). Baton Rouge General Mid City (north of Government by a couple of blocks), as part of that plan, is being forced into closing its emergency room facilities next week and there’s good reason to expect similar crises at private hospitals in Lake Charles, Shreveport and Monroe. In fact, the problems are already starting in Shreveport. http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268748/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=6CI2I0hA

And, of course, there was Jindal’s claim of the infamous “no-go” zones in England in the face of all those apologies by Fox News for initiating the story.

Liar.

It appears Bobby made that claim purely for the sake of political expediency, the worst reason of all. http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/19/politics/jindal-no-go-zones-london/

Jindal, of course, did that major flip-flop on Common Core and is somehow managing to link the Common Core to the radical teaching of American history at the cost of something called “American exceptionalism.”

Liar.

So you’ve changed your position on Common Core. But you overlooked (deliberately, we strongly suspect) one minor detail: Common Core deals only in math and English, not history. http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/02/06/bobby-jindal-what-happens-when-we-stop-teaching-american-exceptionalism-to-our-students/

Finally, there is the biggest Lie of all:

“I have the job I want.”

LIAR!

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By now, everyone who isn’t emotionally involved with Dancing with the Stars or Bachelor, is acutely aware that the state, going into the 2015 legislative session, is flirting with a $1.6 billion budget deficit.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration the growing backlog of sorely needed infrastructure repairs for state highways and universities totaling well over a billion dollars. Nor does it include previous deep cuts to health care and higher education.

Things are so bad that an increasingly desperate Bobby Jindal, running out of state buildings, vehicles and hospitals to sell or agency funds to raid, is even looking to sell the remainder of the state tobacco settlement money and the State Lottery in order to generate yet even more one-time revenue to cover recurring expenses.

And remember, this is the man who told the Monroe News-Star he was leaving the state in better shape than he found it. http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/politics/2015/03/13/gov-jindal-want-finish-strong/70262992/

Still, every year those non-government organizations (NGOs) make the obligatory trek to Baton Rouge with hands out, asking that legislators appropriate funding for their organizations. This year is no exception as 80 individual entities have submitted requests for funding of 89 separate projects totaling nearly $241.3 million.

Of that amount, $116 million, or 48 percent, were for NGOs in the greater New Orleans area.

Many of the requests are from the usual worthy organizations like councils on aging, youth groups and charitable organizations.

Among the larger requests:

  • $26 million for the Foundation for Science & Math Education in New Orleans;
  • $17.2 million for the Girl Scouts of Louisiana East in New Orleans;
  • $4.4 million for Kingsley House in New Orleans;
  • $1.6 million for the Louisiana Arts & Science Museum in Baton Rouge (two projects);
  • $8 million for the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans;
  • $5 million for the Louisiana Food Bank Association in Baton Rouge;
  • $4 million for the Louisiana Regional Leadership Council in Lafayette;
  • $27.7 million for a National Hurricane Museum and Science Center in Lake Charles;
  • $1.4 million for renovations to VFW Post 8852 in Alexandria;
  • $14.9 million for the North Desoto Water System in Stonewall;
  • $4.1 million for the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans;
  • $1.2 million for Sci-Port (Louisiana’s Science Center) in Shreveport;
  • $10.7 million for repairs at the State Fair of Louisiana in Shreveport;
  • $2.1 million for Administrators of the Tulane Education Fund in New Orleans;
  • $4.3 million for Lighthouse for the Blind in New Orleans;
  • $4.9 million for the Louisiana Association for the Blind in Shreveport;
  • $3 million for the Baton Rouge Empowerment Foundation;
  • $10 million for the Gulf Coast Restoration and Protection Foundation in Baton Rouge;
  • $7 million for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana;
  • $2 million for the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra;
  • $2.6 million for Loyola University in New Orleans;
  • $1.1 million for WYES Educational Television in New Orleans;
  • $11.8 million for University Hospital & Clinics in Lafayette (two projects);
  • $37.3 million for the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans;
  • $5.68 for the Biomedical Research Foundation Northwest in Shreveport;
  • $4.5 million for the NOLA Motorsports Hospitality Committee in New Orleans.

The last four warrant particular attention.

While all such organizations are barred from making political contributions because of their non-profit status, officers and members of their boards of directors are not bound by such restrictions. Jindal received $167,000, various members of the Louisiana House and Senate got $65,650, and the Louisiana Republican Party was the beneficiary of another $26,000 from seven principals connected with those four organizations.

University Hospital in Lafayette has been taken over by Lafayette General Medical Center in Jindal’s sweeping state hospital privatization scheme which raises immediate question of why the state should be funding projects at that facility.

Same for the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, which last year assumed operation of LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe. The foundation received $5.7 million in state largesse last year.

The Audubon Institute receives millions of state dollars every year, much of which goes to the upkeep of the institute’s golf course. Last year, for example, Audubon Institute received $16.8 million in legislative appropriations.

But for sheer audacity, we give you the NOLA Motorsports Hospitality Committee. Here is its summary justifying its request for $4.5 million:

  • NOLA Motorsports Park in Jefferson Parish, through a competitive process, has been selected as the site for an INDYCAR event to be part of the championship Verizon INDYCAR Series. The selection was made, in part, because of the availability of a venue for the Event and related activities, transportation infrastructure, personnel, commitment to comply with the required specifications, and because of the collaborative relationships that have been established with other support entities. The Nola Motorsports Host Committee, Inc., a non-profit corporation, has committed to host a first-class Event and to plan and provide a unique and entertaining visitor experience for all which will include live music from Louisiana artists, regional cuisine, and demonstrations of Louisiana’s culture to enhance the visitor experiences for all participants including drivers, team owners, team supporters, corporate sponsors, family and guests, media, and other attendees; and
  • The public purpose of the Event is to provide supplemental funding to the Nola Motorsports Host Committee, Inc. to host the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana which will support the expansion and promotion of tourism by producing an event that is projected to stimulate substantial growth in the Louisiana tourism industry, resulting in job creation and other increased economic activity, including the generation of tax revenue for state and local governments. Nola Motorsports Host Committee has secured a preliminary economic impact analysis from Formula, LLC which indicates an estimated economic impact of $27.8 million annually from the Event. INDYCAR has guaranteed a 3-year lifecycle of the Event with the goal of the Event being an annual occurrence. The goal is to attract visitors to Louisiana and to maintain awareness and a positive image of Louisiana as a unique and desirable travel destination. It is anticipated that the public benefit is proportionate to the obligations undertaken by the State. The State will receive tourism publicity and recognition for its support through verbal acknowledgements, media events, and in other related publicity associated with promoting and publicizing the Event.

But wait. Didn’t this same organization receive $4 million from the state just last year for track improvements after Jindal made a commitment to the track owners to come through with the money?

Well, yes and no.

This is where things get a bit murky.

You see, last year, when Jindal yanked a $4.5 million appropriation away from the developmentally disabled, it was to give the money to NOLA Motor Club (The NGO got $4 million, not the $4.5 it requested), a corporation that was established in September of 2009 and which remains in good standing.

This year, however, the $4.5 million request came from a corporation calling itself NOLA Motorsports Host Committee, established last June.

Both corporations listed their addresses at 11075 Nicolle Blvd. in Avondale, however, but had different officers, according to corporate records on file with the Secretary of State’s office.

But wait. There is a third entity: NOLA Motorsports established in May of 2008 and located at 2251 Drusilla Lane, Suite B in Baton Rouge. But that corporation is listed as inactive and records show its corporate status was revoked on Aug. 16, 2013.

One of the officers of NOLA Motor Club was Laney Chouest.

While Laney Chouest was listed as an officer for NOLA Motor Club, he is not listed among the officers for NOLA Motorsports Host Committee. It is nevertheless interesting to note that he, other members of the Chouest family and their many business enterprises have made $166,300 in campaign contributions since 2003. They include $43,800 to various legislators, $26,000 to the Louisiana Republican Party and $96,500 to Jindal.

What best illustrates the arrogance of that fiscally irresponsible appropriation, the thing that pushed it to the status of virtual malfeasance, is the fact that the Senate Finance Committee, taking its cue from Jindal, ripped $4.5 million from the budget for Louisiana’s developmentally disabled in order to free up the money for the racetrack. The lone dissenting vote was that of State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge). http://louisianavoice.com/2014/05/26/senate-finance-committee-craters-to-jindal-rips-4-5-million-from-developmentally-disabled-for-racetrack/

But what compounds that unconscionable act was the motivation behind Jindal’s action.

The man who for his entire term of office has railed against government encroachment (see: federal stimulus funds, Common Core, medical care, prisons, etc.), obviously based his justification on political expedience and using state government to take care of his contributors.

Though Laney Chouest is not listed among the officers for NOLA Motorsports Host Committee, it is nevertheless interesting to note that he, other members of the Chouest family and their many business enterprises have made $166,300 in campaign contributions since 2003. They include $43,800 to various legislators, $26,000 to the Louisiana Republican Party and $96,500 to Jindal.

Two members of the Senate Finance Committee, Robert “Bret” Allain (R-Franklin) and Norbert “Norby” Chabert (R-Houma), received $2,500 each from Gary Chouest in 2010 and 2011.

Isn’t it interesting how a state so broke as to find itself unable to fund things like highway and bridge repair, health care, higher education, and a host of other essential services, can find $4 million for a race track, $7.7 million for golf courses across the state, $35.1 million for professional sports facilities, $10.1 million for local sports complexes, and another $3 million for baseball stadiums (including $1.4 million for a baseball stadium in Baton Rouge, when we don’t even have a team here)?

It will certainly be interesting to follow the outcome of some of these NGO requests.

Especially those last four on the list.

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The state is so broke that the budget for the coming fiscal year failed to include an appropriation to fund the 2016 presidential primaries.

That was the gist of the story in the Washington Post on Thursday. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2015/03/19/louisiana-is-so-poor-that-it-cant-afford-to-hold-presidential-primaries-in-2016/?postshare=1031426855232281

Yeah, right.

The story goes on to say that Bobby Jindal signed a law last year that moved up the state’s primaries by two weeks in order to give Louisiana a jump on some other presidential primaries in order to attract more national attention to the state—and, presumably, to Jindal’s own presidential aspirations.

And therein lies the real story.

Legislators on Wednesday discovered that money to fund the primaries was absent from Jindal’s budget proposal for the coming year. “I have no funding for elections past the fall elections,” Secretary of State Tom Schedler told the House Appropriations Committee.

Washington Post reporter Jeff Guo, either playing along or oblivious to the political realities, dutifully wrote that it was “something of a mystery” how such an important budget item managed to be deleted.

LouisianaVoice, of course has the real story.

Guo noted accurately that Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols is responsible for the executive budget, adding that her staff annually meets with state agency heads to arrive at the appropriate funding levels to be recommended by the administration.

Schedler said he left his final budget meeting with Jindal’s people under the impression that the $3.5 million necessary to finance the primary elections next March was there, only to later learn it wasn’t.

And of course, Jindal’s people, never known for accepting responsibility when things go south, pointed the finger at the Secretary of State. “Ultimately, the discretion on cuts comes from the head of the agency,” sniffed Meghan Parrish in speaking for Nichols who doubtless was off to another boy band concert in New Orleans.

“He (Schedler) decides…what’s funded and what’s not,” she added.

Schedler had originally requested a budget of $52.6 million for his office but got only $47 million. That budget will be necessary to fund the governor’s race this fall and legislative races.

The dialog quickly degenerated into a he said, she said exchange.

Schedler said he gave a heads-up to Jindal’s people (aka whiz kids without the whiz) in his reports that the primary elections would be among the things that would be deleted if his budget continued to shrink.

Parrish, however, (again speaking for Nichols who must have been enjoying the concert) said her boss doesn’t remember any such conversation during budget talks.

Budget or no budget, state law mandates that the primaries be held—and that they be paid for. It would require a legislative vote to skip the 2016 primaries and that’s not unprecedented.

In fact, legislators did skip the 1984 primary, claiming there were insufficient funds to finance the primary anticipated to cost between $1.3 million and $2 million.

So what is that real story that LouisianaVoice has the exclusive on?

A 28 percent approval rating for Jindal in Louisiana.

Jindal may be a lot of things: an idiot, a delusional egoist, a ruthless politician who would—and will—do whatever it takes to promote Bobby Jindal, but one thing he is not: stupid. He can read the numbers and while he still harbors a passionate belief that he can con voters outside Louisiana, he knows that after nearly eight years of his mismanagement, aimless policies, and quid pro quo favors for benefactors, the people of this state have seen quite enough of Bobby Jindal.

Robert Mann, in his blog Something Like the Truth, today had one of the best articulated arguments in favor of Jindal’s immediate resignation. http://bobmannblog.com/2015/03/20/gov-jindal-its-time-to-resign/

To bring the picture into focus, let’s review the chronology of events as reconstructed in the fertile minds of the staff of LouisianaVoice:

  • A year ago, Jindal was really beginning to ramp up his presidential campaign. He had begun his repeated trips into Iowa and New Hampshire and appearing on TV and radio shows and writing op-eds to talk up the “Louisiana Miracle.” So when the bill came sliding across his desk as he, Timmy Teepell and Kyle Plotkin were mapping out his presidential strategy, it seemed only natural that the Louisiana primary would be his opportunity to make a decisive statement to the rest of the country.

Jindal: “Here’s that presidential primary bill, Timmy. What do you think?”

Teepell (as he fills out a bank deposit slip for his political consulting fee through OnMessage): “Bobby, look what you’ve done for Louisiana. Now you have the chance to show the world what you’re made of.”

Bobby (as he writes another check to OnMessage): “You’re right, of course. I mean, we’ve cut 300,000 deadbeats from state payrolls, we’re on our way to depleting that fat surplus at Group Benefits, we’ve rid the state of those pesky state hospitals that provided health care for people who wouldn’t vote for me on a bet, and we’ve brought the university and college presidents to their knees.”

Teepell (calculating to himself how long he can milk this cash cow): “That’s all true, Bobby, but you know you’re going to have to broaden your horizons by addressing national issues.”

Jindal: “Well, I guess I could attack Obamacare, Common Core, immigration, and radical Islam.”

Teepell: “Now you’re talking.”

  • Now, we fast forward to 2015 as Jindal and Teepell discuss the proposed budget.

Jindal: “Timmy, what the hell happened?”

Teepell (making out deposit slips from both Jindal and Scott Angelle): “I dunno, Bobby. I really thought you’d show up in the polls in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina by now but you’re still flat-lining in all three states.”

Jindal: “I know, right? I didn’t want to peak too early but I’d sure like to see some spike in the polls. But damn! I thought bringing the preachers to the Maravich Center would show the folks in Louisiana how sincere I am about my religious convictions. So, what’re we gonna do about the Louisiana primary next year? I can’t afford to tank in Louisiana.”

Teepell (speaking into his cellphone): “Could you hold on a sec, Scott?” To Jindal: “Bobby, I just don’t know what happened. You should be making a dent in the polls by now. But you’ve got to get your numbers up in Louisiana before you can be taken seriously on the national stage.”

Jindal: “But the primary is already on the schedule. This isn’t good.”

Teepell (speaking into his cellphone): “Let me call you back, Scott.” To Jindal: “Bobby, what does it cost to hold a presidential primary?”

Jindal: “How should I know? I’m never in the state. A couple of million, I guess.”

Teepell: “Well, there you go. Just call Kristy at the concert and tell her to leave funding for the primary out of the budget. No money, no primary.”

Jindal: “Timmy, you’re a genius! That’s why I pay you $30,000 a month.”

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