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Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Thank goodness for late-inning rallies Thursday and Friday nights by LSU’s No. 1-ranked baseball team to beat No. 2 Texas A&M 4-3  and 9-6, respectively. Otherwise, the news just keeps getting worse for Louisiana.

That’s right; we had to flip all the way back to the sports section to find anything good to write.

That’s because even as the legislature grapples with that $1.6 billion budgetary shortfall, things were becoming unraveled elsewhere as the administration was hit this week not with a double- but a triple-whammy that could end up costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars and could conceivably end up costing another LSU president his job.

We will try to take the events in chronological order.

On Tuesday, the administration received word from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services that CMS AGAIN REJECTS the administration’s Cooperative Endeavor Agreements (CEAs) in connection with the controversial state hospital privatization plan pushed by Bobby Jindal “because the state has not met its burden of documenting the allowability of its claims for Federal Financial Participation (FFP).”

The decision apparently will cost the state $190 million, according to a letter to State Medicaid Director Ruth Kennedy from Acting CMS Director Nikki Wachino.

On the heels of that letter, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols received notification from Attorney General Buddy Caldwell on Thursday that the state had been OVERPAID BY $17 MILLION in tobacco settlement money and would have to repay that amount to the tobacco companies who then will redistribute it to states that were underpaid.

And on Friday, State Treasurer John Kennedy announced that national investors had pulled out of a large portion of a major bond deal for LSU after concerns were raised on Wall Street by LSU President F. King Alexander who announced on Thursday that he was preparing paperwork for the state’s flagship university to file for financial exigency, or academic bankruptcy. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/lsu_academic_bankruptcy.html

Kennedy, in a Friday news release, said his office was “trying to sort out the facts,” but essentially, a $114 million bond issue that was in the works appeared to fall flat when investors pulled out on about $80 million in commitments. The bond sale was to have funded a Family Housing Complex, residence halls and a Student Health Center and also would have saved interest on existing debt. http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=e9da20fd-7c07-4e6d-9d75-82afa4fb05a9&c=cdce75a0-62fb-11e3-959d-d4ae52a459cd&ch=ce38f740-62fb-11e3-95d9-d4ae52a459cd

A BloombergBusiness report said that while investors who bought the $114 million of debt sold by LSU they were not told the school was considering filing for exigency. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-23/louisiana-state-bond-buyers-greeted-by-insolvency-plan-next-day

A declaration of exigency by LSU and other colleges and universities across the state would open the way for the schools to fire tenured professors. http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-04-23/louisiana-state-to-draft-insolvency-plan-as-jindal-plans-cuts

One state official confided in LouisianaVoice that Alexander, in his attempts to underscore the severity of the financial crisis in Louisiana higher education, currently facing still more deep budgetary cuts, may have overplayed his hand in making a “premature” announcement of such magnitude.

Meanwhile, word leaked out of a Board of Regents committee meeting Friday afternoon that as many as one-half to 75 percent of Louisiana colleges and universities may be unable to meet payroll by June unless some solution is found quickly to the fiscal crisis that has spread a mood of imminent doom across state campuses. That source said he does not believe a solution will be found until the last week of the session—if then.

With a vengeful governor like Bobby Jindal, anything perceived by him to place him in a bad light is met with severe repercussions, namely teaguing, and Alexander’s pronouncements have certainly reflected poorly on the administration.

For new readers who may not be familiar with the term, teaguing refers to Jindal’s firing of Melody Teague because of her testimony before the state government streamlining committee and the similar firing of her husband, Tommy Teague, only six months later from his job as Director of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) when he failed to go along with the ill-fated privatization of that agency. Dozens of other state employees and legislators have been either fired or demoted from committee assignments by Jindal for lesser sins. LouisianaVoice learned today that Melody Teague, who was suffering from ALS, died in March. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/theadvocate/obituary.aspx?pid=174404543

For his part, Jindal, after more than seven years in office, has finally admitted there is a problem with “corporate welfare” in Louisiana, i.e. corporations that do not pay any taxes to the state.

One classic example cited by Steve Spires of the Louisiana Budget Project was Wal-Mart, which is a Delaware-based corporation. Spires, speaking at a State of (Dis)Repair conference in Hammond on Thursday, noted that Louisiana Wal-Mart stores are leased by local entities who pay exorbitant rent to the corporate parent in Delaware, a state with no state income tax, thus avoiding income tax in Louisiana while reaping the benefits of other incentives such as Enterprise Zone designation and 10-year property tax exemptions.

Jindal has only in the past couple of weeks so much as acknowledged the state has a problem with its generous tax breaks for corporations which cost the state billions of dollars per year.

Thus, as the budget crisis grows progressively worse with each passing year, Jindal has resorted to more and more sleight of hand in patching over budget holes with one-money.

Caldwell, in his letter to Nichols and Kennedy, said a number of states had been underpaid in tobacco fund settlement money by the tobacco companies because of accounting errors, and that a corresponding number, including Louisiana, had been overpaid.

Louisiana, he said, was overpaid by about $17 million which will have to be repaid so the money can be redistributed to the proper states.

The CMS rejection has been a problem for the administration since the privatization deals with several private hospitals were signed, though DHH Secretary Kathy Kleibert has attempted to see the world through rose-colored glasses, always expressing optimism that the state’s plan would be approved.

Not so.

In her three-page letter to Ruth Kennedy, Wachino said, “After careful consideration, CMS cannot accept the arguments advanced by the State in its Request for Reconsideration. While CMS recognizes the State’s efforts at corrective action, such measures do not address the State’s noncompliance for the period in question (Jan. 1, 2013 through May 23, 2014). For the reasons stated above, as well as in CMS’s Dec. 23, 2014, disallowance letter, the…disallowance is affirmed.”

All in all, the state has seen better weeks.

Go LSU! We need a sweep badly!

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Bobby Jindal has promised to find money to address the funding crisis facing Louisiana’s public colleges and universities but besides the obvious dire financial straits in which the state currently finds itself, two important obstacles must be overcome by our absentee governor: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Grover Norquist.

The odds of appeasing just one in efforts to raise needed funding for higher education will be difficult enough, given Jindal’s allegiance to the two. Obtaining the blessings of both while simultaneously distracted by the siren’s call of the Republican presidential nomination will be virtually impossible.

Higher education, already hit with repeated cuts by the Jindal administration, is facing additional cuts of up to $600 million, or 82 percent of its current budget, according to news coming out of the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/louisianas_higher_education_bu.html

Such a fiscal scenario could result in the closure of some schools and across the board discontinuation of programs.

Moody’s, the bond-rating service, has warned that Louisiana higher education cannot absorb any further cuts. http://www.treasury.state.la.us/Lists/SiteArticlesByCat/DispForm_Single.aspx?List=c023d63e%2Dac65%2D439d%2Daf97%2Dda71d8688dff&ID=884

Louisiana has already cut per student spending by 42 percent since fiscal year 2008 (compared to the national average of 6 percent), fourth highest in the nation behind Arizona, New Hampshire and Oregon. The actual cut in dollars, $4,715 per student, is second only to the $4,775 per student cut by New Mexico. To help offset those cuts, Louisiana colleges and universities have bumped tuition by 38 percent, 10th highest in the nation but still a shade less than half the 78.4 percent increase for Arizona students. http://www.cbpp.org/research/recent-deep-state-higher-education-cuts-may-harm-students-and-the-economy-for-years-to-come?fa=view&id=3927

But that’s all part of the game plan for ALEC, the “model legislation” alliance of state legislators heavily funded by the Koch brothers which has as its overall objective the privatization of nearly all public services now taken for granted: prisons, pension plans, medical insurance, and education, to name but a few. http://www.cbpp.org/research/alec-tax-and-budget-proposals-would-slash-public-services-and-jeopardize-economic-growth?fa=view&id=3901

Jindal has already incorporated some of ALEC’s privatization proposals, namely state employee medical insurance and elementary and secondary education. He met with less success in attempts to initiate prison privatization and state retirement reform.

ALEC also proposes abolishing state income taxes, another proposal floated and then quickly abandoned by Jindal but pushed successfully by Kansas Gov. Brownback. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/21/vwelfap/

And then there is Norquist, the anti-tax Republican operative who founded Americans for Tax Reform and who somehow survived the Jack Abramoff scandal and thrived. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abramoff_Indian_lobbying_scandal

What strange hold does he have over Jindal?

The pledge.

Jindal, as did a couple dozen Louisiana legislators, signed onto Norquist’s “no-tax” pledge—a promise not to raise taxes under any circumstances. The pledge even prompted Jindal to veto a 4-cent cigarette tax renewal in 2011 because in his twisted logic, it was somehow a new tax. The legislature had to adopt a last-minute constitutional amendment to make the tax permanent.

Undeterred, Jindal, through communications director Mike Reed, has said he would support a cigarette tax increase this year only if it is offset with a tax cut elsewhere. This despite estimates that a higher tax would not only generate needed income for the state, but would, by encouraging smokes to quit and teens to not start smoking, create long-term health care savings for the state. His veto also flew in the face of a 1997 article that Jindal authored while secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in which he said, “Society must recover those costs which could have been avoided had the individual not chosen the risky behavior only to prevent others from having to bear the costs.” http://theadvocate.com/news/11930951-123/lawmaker-proposes-154-state-cigarette

Not to be confused with the “no-go” zones of Jindal’s vivid imagination, the “no-tax” pledge apparently is a good thing for Republicans and tea partiers and is considered sacrosanct to those who have taken the oath even if it locks politicians into the impossible situation of trying to resolve a $1.6 billion budgetary crisis while not increasing revenue.

Jindal routinely runs proposed legislation by Norquist for his blessings, according to Jindal spokesperson Reed who admitted as much. http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/03/in_jindals_world_tax_is_a_tax.html

Even U.S. Sen. David Vitter signed the pledge but has assured voters it won’t be binding on him as governor—a dubious promise that would make him unique among signers. After all, a pledge is a pledge and when one signs it, so what difference would it make which office he holds?

So, how does all this figure into the budget crisis for higher education in Louisiana?

In a word, privatization. Or, taking the “state” out of “state universities.”

While neither Jindal nor any legislator has dared breathe the word privatization as it regards the state’s colleges and universities, at least one Jindal appointee, Board of Regents Chairman Roy Martin of Alexandria, has broached the subject, speaking he said, strictly as an individual. http://theadvocate.com/news/11716059-123/regents-look-at-privatizing-public

The slashing of higher education budgets appears to be a pattern as governors attempt to wean colleges and universities from dependence on state funding, transitioning their status from state-supported to state-assisted to state-located. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/02/27/scott-walker-bobby-jindal-aim-to-slash-higher-ed-funding

Privatization of state colleges and universities would, of course, push tuition rates even higher, making a college education cost prohibitive for many. But that dovetails nicely with the ALEC agenda as income disparity continues to widen with ever more generous tax laws that benefit the super-rich while placing growing burdens on lower-income taxpayers. By winnowing out those who can least afford college, privatization necessarily enhances the selection process to serve the elite and at the same time, opens up additional revenue opportunities for those in position to take advantage of privatized services such as book stores, printing, food services, and general maintenance. http://gse.buffalo.edu/FAS/Johnston/privatization.html

There is already a backlog of nearly $2 billion in maintenance projects on state college and university campuses just waiting for some lucky entrepreneur with the right connections.

http://theadvocate.com/home/5997316-125/backlog-of-maintenance

States like Louisiana, by such actions as simply increasing our cigarette tax (third lowest in the nation) and being less generous with corporate tax breaks and initiatives, could have reduced the size of the spending cuts or avoided them altogether. Sadly, that was not done and those looking at someone to blame cannot point the finger only at Jindal; legislators have been complicit from the beginning and must shoulder the responsibility for the present mess.

As a result, state colleges and universities have already cut staff and eliminated entire programs to such a degree that Louisiana’s high school seniors already are considering options out of state and other states are obliging. https://lahigheredconfessions.wordpress.com/

Should the legislature adopt any measures to raise revenue for higher education, such measures likely would be vetoed by Jindal if he gets the message from Norquist to do so.

If that occurs, his palpable disregard for the welfare of this state as evidenced by his growing absence will be dwarfed by the affront of taking his cue of governance from a Washington, D.C. lobbyist as opposed to listening to his constituents who want real solutions and not political grandstanding.

But that certainly would be nothing new for Bobby Jindal.

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JINDAL STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS(FROM OUR ANONYMOUS CARTOONIST: CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

If there was any lingering doubt that Bobby Jindal has been committing payroll fraud, that doubt was erased in last Monday’s State of the State address to legislators at the opening of the 2015 legislative which, thankfully, will be his last such address.

Fraud is defined as:

  • The wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain;
  • Deceit, trickery, or breach of confidence perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage;
  • A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.

Payroll fraud is further defined as the unauthorized altering of payroll or benefits systems in order for an employee to gain funds which are not due. The person making financial gain could be the employee or could be an associate who is using the employee to commit the fraud while taking the funds for himself.

There are generally three types of payroll fraud but for our purposes we are interested in only one:

  • Ghost employees—A person, fictional or real, who is being paid for work he does not perform. In order for the fraud to work the ghost employee must be added to the payroll register. If the individual is paid a monthly salary this is easier for the fraudster, as once this has been set up there is little or no paperwork required. In order for the fraud to work, the ghost employee must be added elected to the payroll register. Once this has been set up, there is little or no paperwork required.

Under that definition, Jindal could certainly be considered a ghost employee. One person even suggested that it was not really Jindal speaking to legislators, that Jindal was actually in Iowa and they were being addressed by a hologram.

We maintain that Jindal is committing payroll fraud by vacating the state so often and leaving the details of running the state to appointed subordinates as inexperienced and naïve as he. The point here is this: No one on his staff was elected; he was. And he has not been at the helm of the ship of state and by absenting himself so frequently and so consistently as he gins up his presidential candidacy, he is committing payroll fraud, theft, and malfeasance. Others, like former Desoto Parish School Superintendent and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Walter Lee have been indicted and been prosecuted for payroll fraud.

Before we really get into his speech to legislators, JINDAL ADDRESS TO LEGISLATURE we simply must call attention to the feeble effort at humor he (or someone) injected into the third line of his speech:

“Well, here we are…at the moment that some of you have been waiting for a long time—my last state of the state speech.”

After an apparently appropriate pause, he continued: “No, that was not supposed to be an applause line…and I do appreciate your restraint.”

Seriously? You actually wrote that line in your speech? If you have to write that in, if you are incapable of ad-libbing that simple line, then we now understand that idiotic response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2009.

Before getting to the real meat of his legislative agenda for this year (if you can call it that), he touched ever-so-lightly on a few other points he generously referred to as his administration’s accomplishments. Our responses to each point are drawn directly from statistics provided by 24/7 Wall Street, a service that provides a steady stream of statistical data on business and government:

  • “We cleaned up our ethics laws so that now what you know is more important than who you know.” (A quick look at the appointment of Troy Hebert as director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control after the baseless firing of Murphy Painter could quickly debunk that bogus claim. So could several appointments to the LSU Board of Supervisors and the equally egregious firing of key personnel like Tommy Teague who did their jobs well but made the fatal mistake of crossing Mr. Egomaniac.)
  • “We reformed our education system…” (Louisiana is the fifth-worst educated state and we are the third-worst state for children who struggle to read);
  • “We reformed our health care system…” (Really? Is that why the privatization of our state hospitals remain in turmoil? That same reform ultimately forced the closure of Baton Rouge General Mid-City’s emergency room because of the overload brought on by the closure of Earl K. Long Hospital? Can we thank your “reform” for the fact that Louisiana still has the nation’s third-lowest life expectancy rate or that we enjoy the nation’s third-most unhealthy rating, that we are fifth-highest in cardiovascular deaths or that we have the highest obesity rate in the nation?);
  • “…Our economy is booming.” (Seriously? Louisiana is rated as the worst state for business in the U.S.; we rank sixth-highest among states where the middle class is dying; we remain the eighth-poorest state in the nation with a poverty rate that is third-highest, and we’re saddled with the fourth-worst income disparity in the nation and we’re rated the 10th-worst state in which to be unemployed.);
  • “We have balanced our budget every year…and have received eight credit upgrades.” (This one of those claims so preposterous one doesn’t know how to respond, but we’ll give it our best. Jindal has repeatedly patched budget holes by skimming funds from other agencies, like more than $400 million from the Office of Group Benefits reserve fund, from the sale of the tobacco settlement, from ripping funds for the developmentally disadvantaged (to fund a race track tied a political donor—what was that line again about “what you know, not who you know”?), by cutting health care and higher education, by selling state property, and now he’s trying to cover the current $1.6 billion budget hole by selling the State Lottery. As for those credit upgrades, we can only point to the February action by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s bond rating agencies to move the state’s credit outlook from stable to negative—and to threaten the more severe action of a downgrade.);
  • “The end result is a stronger, more prosperous Louisiana for our children. I measure Louisiana’s prosperity not by the prosperity of our government, but by the prosperity of our people.” (So, why are the fifth-most dangerous state in the nation? The 10th-most miserable state? Why do we have the eighth-worst quality of life? And the 11th-worst run state in the nation? And why have you never once addressed in your seven-plus years in office our ranking as the number-one state in the nation for gun violence or our ranking as first in the world for our prison incarceration rate?)
  • “We don’t live by Washington’s rules of kicking our debts down the road.” (For the love of God…);
  • “We have laid out a budget proposal that seeks to protect higher education, health care and other important government functions.” (And that’s why higher education and health care have been cut each of your years in office and why more cuts are anticipated that could conceivably shut down some of our universities. You really call cuts of up to 80 percent “protecting” higher education?);
  • “We have a system of corporate welfare in this state.” (Wow. After more than seven years of giving away the store to the tune of billions of dollars in corporate tax breaks, you finally come the realization that perhaps your generosity to the Wal-Marts, chicken processing plants and movie production companies may have been a bit much—that those policies may have actually hurt the state? What brought about this sudden epiphany? Bob Mann, in his Something Like the Truth blog, was all over that when he called attention to Jindal’s latest comment in the face of his claim a couple of years ago that we were “crushing businesses” with oppressive taxes. We’ll let him take this one.) http://bobmannblog.com/2015/04/17/bobby-jindal-is-now-against-corporate-welfare/
  • “We have identified over $500 million of corporate welfare spending that we think should be cut…” (Why the hell did it take you seven years?)

After all was said and done, after his hit-and-run sideswipes at all his purported “accomplishments,” Jindal devoted the bulk of his address to only two issues: Common Core and religious liberty. Of the latter issue, he said, “I absolutely intend to fight for passage of this legislation.”

Jindal was referring to Bossier City Republican State Rep. Mike Johnson’s HB 707 which would waste an enormous amount of time and energy—time that could be better spent on far more pressing matters, like a $1.6 billion deficit—on preventing the state from taking “any adverse action” against a person or business on the basis of a “moral conviction about marriage.”

Despite claims by Jindal and Johnson to the contrary, the bill is nothing more than a clone of the Indiana law that constitutes a not-so-subtle attack on gays or anyone else with whom any businessman deems a threat to his or her definition of marriage.

So, after eight addresses to the legislature, Jindal has yet to address any of the issues like inadequate health care, violence, poverty, pay disparity or equal pay for women, increasing the minimum wage, poor business climate (his rosy claims notwithstanding), our highway system (we didn’t mention that, but we are the seventh-worst state in which to drive, with the 15th-highest auto fatality rate), or our having the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Instead, the thrust of his address is aimed at Common Core—he called it federal control even though Common Core was devised by the nation’s governors and not the federal government—and something called the “Marriage and Conscience Act.”

And he expects those two issues, along with something he calls “American Exceptionalism,” to thrust him into the White House as leader of the free world.

And, of course, attacking national Democrats like Obama and just today, Hillary Clinton, on her claim of having immigrant grandparents. Jindal, of course, wants exclusive rights to that claim and says so with his oft-repeated platitude: My parents came to this country over 40 years ago with nothing but the belief that America is the land of freedom and opportunity. They were right. The sad truth is that the Left no longer believes in American Exceptionalism.”

Well, to tell the truth, if Bobby Jindal is the example—the standard-bearer, if you will—for what is considered “American Exceptionalism,” then frankly, we don’t believe in it either.

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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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