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Archive for the ‘Exemptions, Incentives’ Category

The Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) agenda, as we have shown here on numerous occasions, promotes unyielding opposition to any legislation that smacks of benefits to workers, the unemployed and the poor.

Among other things, ALEC, led by the Koch brothers, pushes legislation that:

  • Opposes an extension of unemployment benefits;
  • Undermines the rights of injured workers to hold their corporate employers accountable
  • Promotes for-profit schools at the expense of public education;
  • Opposes consumers’ right to know the origin of food we consume;
  • Opposes an increase in the federal minimum wage;
  • Limits patient rights and undermines safety net programs including, of all things a call to end licensing and certification of doctors and other medical professionals.

While the effort to end licensing and certification of medical professionals might play into the hands of State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R-D-R-Opelousas) and his affinity for witch doctors, such a move probably would not work to the benefit of the average patient.

http://louisianavoice.com/2013/12/30/louisianas-chameleon-legislator-sen-elbert-guillory-republicandemocratrepublican-is-candidate-for-lt-gov/

And while ALEC vehemently opposes any legislation that might remotely resemble benefits to the poor or which might invoke that hated word welfare, the organization’s agenda remains something of a paradox when one takes a step back and examines the spate of corporate welfare programs enacted by willing accomplices in the highest reaches of Louisiana politics.

Generous tax exemptions, credits, and incentives have proliferated to an extent not even imagined by the injured or unemployed worker trying to provide for his family—while generating few, if any, real benefits in the way of new jobs.

Probably the most glaring abuse of the incentives offered by our Office of Economic Development are the absurd tax dodges meted out to the movie industry and for what—being able to boast that we’re now recognized as Hollywood East.” That offers little encouragement to the guy trying to pay for a mortgage, a car payment, education of his kids, and health care if he’s hurt or can’t find a job.

By contrast, LouisianaVoice has found a few federal farm subsidy payments to several “persons of interest” which may come as a surprise to Louisiana’s great unwashed. Then again, maybe not.

For example, we have former legislator (he served in both the House and Senate) Noble Ellington, two years ago appointed to the $130,000 per year position of Deputy Commissioner of Insurance despite his having no experience in the field of insurance.

Ellington, a Republican from Winnsboro, also served until his retirement from the legislature as ALEC’s national president and even hosted the organization’s annual convention in New Orleans in 2011 so it stands to reason that he would, on principle alone, reject out of hand any form of welfare—even such as might be to his own financial benefit.

Not so much.

From 1995 to 2012, Ellington received $335,273 in federal farm subsidies while sons Ryan Ellington and Noble Ellington, III, received $89,000 and $25,223, respectively—nearly $450,000 for the three.

Granted, the senior Ellington made his fortune as a cotton merchant so we suppose that qualifies him to the subsidies—except for his position as National President of ALEC which is diametrically opposed to welfare. Oops, we forgot; that’s diametrically opposed to welfare for all but the corporate world. Our bad.

And then there’s Ellington’s successor to the Louisiana House, Rep. Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro), who introduced a bill during last year’s session that would have required the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to “adopt rules and regulations that require all public high school students beginning with those entering ninth grade in the fall of 2014, to successfully complete at least one course offered by a BESE-authorized online or virtual course provider as a prerequisite to graduation.”

If that’s not corporate welfare, in that it guarantees a constant revenue stream in the form of state payments to private concerns offering those Course Choice courses, we will shine your shoes free for a year.

During the same time period, 1995 to 2012, Pylant received nearly $104,400 in federal farm subsidies.

His occupation prior to his election to the Louisiana House? He was sheriff of Franklin Parish.

Another ALEC member, State Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi), also received $472,952 in federal farm subsidies for the same time period as Ellington and Pylant.

Thompson holds an Ed.D. Degree from the University of Louisiana Monroe (formerly Northeast Louisiana University) and lists his occupation as educator and developer.

Other ALEC members, their occupations and federal farm subsidies received between 1995 and 2012:

  • Bogalusa Democratic Sen. Ben Nevers—electrical contractor, $20,000;
  • State Rep. Andy Anders (D-Vidalia)—salesman for Scott Equipment, $34,175;
  • Rep. Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro)—Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, “independent businessman” and also has a background in education, nearly $2600—a pittance by comparison but still indicative of the mindset of the ALEC membership when it comes to applying a heaping helping of double standard to the public trough.

To be completely fair, however, it should be pointed out that Nevers introduced a bill this session (SB96) that called for a constitutional amendment that would make health care available under Medicaid to all state residents at or below 138 per cent of the federal poverty level—an effort that sets him apart from those who parrot the standard ALEC position on medical care for the poor. Of course his bill failed in committee by a 6-2 vote today (April 23) after Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) moved to defer action.

Perhaps voters will remember Claitor’s compassion for those without health care in this fall’s (Nov. 4) congressional election.

Two other legislators and two political appointees of Gov. Bobby Jindal who are not members of ALEC also combined to receive nearly $561,000 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2012, records show. They are:

  • State Rep. Richard Burford (R-Stonewall)— dairy and beef farmer, $38,000;
  • State Rep. John Morris (R-Monroe)— attorney, $11,625;
  • Robert Barham of Oak Ridge—Secretary, Department of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, $489,700;
  • Lee Mallett of Iowa, LA.—member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, $21,600.

All but Burford and Mallett reside in the 5th Congressional District formerly represented by Rodney Alexander (R-Jonesboro), who now heads the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 5th District includes the Louisiana Delta which make up one of the largest row crop farming communities of any congressional district in the nation.

Accordingly, the $289,000 paid out to recipients in 2012 was easily the highest of Louisiana’s six congressional districts, more than double the 4th District represented by John Fleming and accounting for 50.6 percent of the statewide total.

For the period of 1995-2012, the 5th District also ranked highest in federal farm subsidies with the $23.7 million paid out representing 31.2 percent of the total and ranking slightly ahead of the 3rd Congressional District of Charles Boustany, which had $21.1 million (27.8 percent).

Of the $292.5 billion paid in subsidies nationwide from 1995-2012, the top 10 percent of recipients received 75 percent of all subsidies, or an average of slightly more than $32,000 per recipient per year for the 18-year period reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA records also reveal that 62 percent of all farms in the U.S. received no subsidy payments.

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A 22-year employee of the E.I. DuPont de Nemours (DuPont) plant in Burnside in Ascension Parish has filed a confidential lawsuit in Middle District Federal Court in Baton Rouge that claims the plant has consistently been experiencing toxic gas leaks on almost a daily basis for more than two years without reporting the leaks as required by a 151-year-old federal law.

Jeffrey M. Simoneaux, an Ascension Parish native who served for 14 years as chairman of the plant’s Safety, Health and Environmental Committee, also claims he was harassed, intimidated and denied promotions after he said he complied with DuPont’s own internal procedures for reporting a leak of sulfur trioxide (SO3) gas, a known carcinogen which is regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 and was reprimanded for doing so.

DuPont, headquartered in Wilmington, Del., was ranked 72nd on the Fortune 500 in 2013 and reported 2012 profits of nearly $2.8 billion, down more than 19 percent from 2011, according to a report by CNN Money.

Despite profits from its worldwide operations which employ 60,000 people, DuPont has for years avoided paying any federal income taxes.

The company has contributed more than $21,000 to various state politicians since 2003, including $4,500 to Gov. Bobby Jindal. Its plants in Burnside and in St. John the Baptist Parish have been granted more than $21 million in various tax credits and exemptions by the state.

Those included, in order, the project, the year, parish, total investment, tax exemption and number of new jobs created:

  • Plant expansion, 2010, St. John the Baptist, $93 million, $1.4 million five-year tax credit, 11 new jobs;
  • Plant expansion, 2008, St. John the Baptist, $58.8 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $10.9 million, five new jobs;
  • Retrofit project, 2010, Ascension, $72.2 million, five-year property tax credit of $541,000, three new jobs;
  • Miscellaneous capital addition, 2010, St. John the Baptist, $1.3 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $232,000, no new jobs;
  • Plant addition, 2009, St. John the Baptist, $6.7 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $1.2 million, no new jobs;
  • Plant addition, 2009, Ascension, $45 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $6.9 million, no new jobs.

The case has been referred to Federal District Judge Shelly Dick and Magistrate Judge Stephen Riedlinger, according to court documents.

Simoneaux terminated his employment with DuPont on Aug. 13, 2012, he said.

The most recent filing is a Feb. 21, 2014 Response to State of Uncontested Facts submitted by Simoneaux who is represented by Baton Rouge attorneys Jane Barney and J. Arthur Smith, III.

In that filing, Simoneaux claims that DuPont failed to inform the Environmental Protection Agency of the numerous SO3 leaks by the plant despite its proximity and potential threat to an elementary school, Sorrento Primary School, a residential subdivision and the Mississippi River.

He filed his suit under the 151-year-old False Claims Act (FCA), passed by Congress in 1863 because of concerns that suppliers of goods to the Union Army during the Civil War were defrauding the Army.

Under FCA, DuPont should be subjected to mandatory fines of $25,000 per violation per day plus “recovery of three times the amount of damages sustained by the U.S., and an award of attorney’s fees.”

Simoneaux claims that plant manager Tom Miller became irate when Simoneaux attempted to slow the plant production rate so as to reduce the leakage on Feb. 1, 2012. Miller, he said, overrode his decision and said he wished to speak to Simoneaux alone.

Simoneaux said he would prefer to have another operator present during his conversation with Miller, but the plant manager would not allow it.

Miller subsequently berated Simoneaux for sending an email to his supervisor, Elizabeth Cromwell, and directed him “not to send any more written communications about leaks or stack capacity.” Simoneaux said that Miller “clearly advised” him that should he send future emails to Miller about any offsite release, he would “get in trouble.”

He said he advised Miller that the leak was going offsite as they were speaking but that Miller three separate times refused to ride with Simoneaux to the rear of the plant so that Miller could see for himself the gas, visible as a light blue mist, “flowing over the fence line.”

He said he asked Miller where he thought the gas was going and Miller “looked out the door and said, ‘Who is the plant manager, me or you? I’m telling you I don’t see any gas going off the site.’”

Simoneaux said to properly repair the leaks, the plant should be completely shut down so repairs could be made. Instead, temporary stop-gap measures were attempted utilizing a rubber suction hose that deteriorated quickly because of the acid contained in the lines.

On April 11, 2012, Simoneaux again observed a cloud of leaking SO3 and entered the information in a log book, again provoking Miller’s anger. “The plant manager said he did not want someone ‘coming in her to do an environmental audit and coming across this stuff written in this log book, reading it and getting the wrong idea.”

Simoneaux also said that Miller, during an employee meeting, verbally discouraged employees from calling authorities about the gas leak. He also said an investigation was conducted by management and their report “states that there was no on-site impact and no off-site impact, giving a score of zero to both issues” despite the fact that one employee was treated for eye and throat irritation after being exposed to one leak.

A contract worker also was burned when acid dropped onto him from the rubber hose, the petition says.

A Material Safety Data Sheet was submitted as an exhibit by Simoneaux’s attorneys and provides information under both potential acute and chronic health effects of exposure to SO3.

Potential Acute Health Effects:

  • Very hazardous in case of skin contact, eye contact, ingestion or inhalation. Liquid or spray mist may produce tissue damage, particularly on mucous membranes, of eyes, mouth and respiratory tract. Skin contact may produce burns. Inhalation of the spray mist may produce severe irritation of respiratory tract, characterized by coughing, choking or shortness of breath. Severe over-exposure can result in death. Inflammation of the eye(s) is characterized by redness, watering and itching. Skin inflammation is characterized by itching, scaling, reddening, or occasionally, blistering.

Potential Chronic Health Effects:

  • Carcinogenic Effects: Classified 1 (proven for human). The substance may be tozic to mucous membranes, skin, eyes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. Repeated or prolonged contact with spray mist may produce chronic eye irritation and severe skin irritation. Repeated or prolonged exposure to spray mist may produce respiratory tract irritation leading to frequent attacks of bronchial infection. Repeated exposure to a highly toxic material may produce general deterioration of health by an accumulation in one or many human organs.

DuPont, as might be expected, denied Simoneaux’s claims but in its response to Simoneaux’s first set of requests for production of documents, standard procedure in any civil litigation under the rules of discovery, the company made several glaring admissions that tend to substantiate Simoneaux’s claims and deposition testimony of several of Simoneaux’s former co-workers at DuPont’s Burnside plant:

  • Asked to produce all TSCA notifications, the company admitted it “has no responsive documents.
  • Asked to produce “every unedited ‘First Report’ pertaining to gas leaks prepared since December of 2011,” DuPont “objects to the term “unedited” as vague (and) calls for speculation and assumes facts not in evidence.”
  • Asked to produce all documents subsequent to Nov. 1, 2011 exchanged with or concerning any governmental agency, or authority, including school, police, fire, any insurance company or environmental authorities or agencies pertaining to an actual or potential gas leak, DuPont indicated it believed there were no such documents.
  • Asked to produce all documents reflecting impacts to employees or others from a gas leak at the Burnside plant, DuPont objected on the grounds that it seeks privileged medical information.
  • Asked to produce all documents reflecting complaints of gas leaks from the Burnside plant since Dec. 1, 2011, DuPont objected, claiming that the word “complaint” was not defined and is vague.
  • Asked to produce documents pertaining to communications from Dec. 2, 2011 to the present involving DuPont personnel regarding whether or not to report a gas leak to governing authorities, the need for a plant shutdown and/or precautions or responsive measures to be taken in light of gas leaks, DuPont cited attorney-client privilege.
  • Asked to produce all emails exchanged between Miller and ‘DuPont corporate’ and/or any of Miller’s DuPont superiors concerning leaks, environmental conditions and/or safety conditions at the Burnside facility from Dec. 1, 2011 to present, DuPont claimed the request was “overly broad, unduly burdensome, and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”
  • Asked to produce all documents pertaining to health effects, risks, studies, tests or hazards associated with SO3 and/or SO2 gas, DuPont claimed the request was “overly broad and unduly burdensome.”
  • Asked to produce the log book maintained by operators from Dec. 1, 2011 to present and to produce the “Safety Zone-Burnside Transfer Facility Security Plan” reported prepared by Simoneaux on Mar. 18, 2012, the company claimed the request were “overly broad and unduly burdensome.”
  • Asked to produce all documents provided to or received from OSHA concerning gas leaks and/or employee exposure or potential exposure from Dec. 1, 2011, to present, DuPont said it “has no such documents responsive to this request.”
  • Asked to produce all documents, including emails, concerning the facts set forth in (Simoneaux’s) complaint, DuPont again invoked the “overly broad and unduly burdensome” claim.

Lonnie Blanchard, a contract worker at the DuPont Burnside facility, testified in his deposition that there were up to two dozen SO3 leaks. He described the leaks as “a real problem” and said on several occasions he could see the cloud of gas escaping from the plant from the Sunshine Bridge that connects the east and west banks of Ascension which is split by the Mississippi River.

Another employee, Percy Bell, testified in his deposition that plant management had issued a policy saying employees were prohibited from taking photographs of the mist clouds.

In his deposition, he was asked, “In the last two years, has there ever been a time when you were working (at the plant) and there hasn’t been a leak?”

“No, I haven’t,” he answered.

Simoneaux said DuPont identified gas leaks to which it will respond “only by visible assessment and (it) has no monitors at equipment sites.”

He added that the stop-gap measure used “is appropriate only for temporary use until permanent repairs can be made” because it is not made of material designed for that purpose and is “known to fail without warning.”

Employees and contractors work in proximity to the leaks on a daily basis with no warning given before there is a visible gas leak. Employees, he said, must watch a windsock at the plant in attempts to stay upwind of any gas leaks in efforts to avoid exposure.

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The photo in the Shreveport Times shows a grinning Gov. Bobby Jindal shaking hands with David Zolet, executive vice president and general manager of the North American Sector of Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) as the two jointly announced that the company plans to open a technology center at CSC’s national Cyber Research Park in Bossier City.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20140218/NEWS05/140218014/Computer-Sciences-Corporation-bring-800-jobs-Bossier-City

The company, partially owned by Lloyds Banking Group of London through its Scottish Windows funds, offers IT services, including cloud solutions, cyber security, technology consulting and, according to several sources, secret CIA flights for the purposes of interrogation and torture. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/may/06/lloyds-computer-sciences-corporation-cia-rendition

CSC will be the anchor tenant of the research park and will partner with Louisiana Tech University to account for 1,600 new jobs over the next four years, thanks in part to $14 million in state funding over the next decade to expand higher education programs to increase the number of computer science graduates per year.

Louisiana Tech is scheduled to receive the bulk of the $14 million as it plans to quadruple its number of undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer information systems and cyber engineering over the next five or six years, Jindal said, adding that Bossier City was selected over 133 other sites in the U.S. He said the company’s decision will help northwest Louisiana to become “one of America’s new technology hubs, enabling the region to attract technology partners of CSC as well as other technology companies attracted to the growing IT work force here.”

And while Louisiana Tech will get most of the initial funding, the lease payments for the 116,000 square-foot technology center that will be constructed and leased to CSC by Cyber Innovation Center will be paid with $29 million in state funds. City and parish governments will chip another $5 million each to purchase data center equipment for the building while CSC will invest in the servers and other computer technology.

While we are not sure of the identities of the other “technology partners” of CSC, it’s somewhat interesting to note that CSC customers are being urged to boycott the company over allegations that it took part in illegal CIA rendition flights in the U.S. “war on terror.”

Court documents have linked CSC to the rendition of German citizen Khaled El-Masri who was abducted on Dec. 31, 2003, after being mistaken for a known terrorist by the CIA. http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240160206/Customers-urged-to-boycott-CSC-over-CIA-torture-flights

El-Masri was blindfolded, beaten, imprisoned for 23 days, stripped, sodomized, chained, drugged, flown to Afghanistan where he was again beaten and imprisoned for another four months, interrogated, threatened, denied legal representation, force fed and finally flown in a CSC-chartered plane to Albania, where he was left on a remote road in the middle of the night some 1500 kilometers from his home.

CSC was contracted for the flight as well as for other illegal CIA renditions, according to human rights charity Reprieve. CSC has so far refused a request by Reprieve to sign a pledge of “zero tolerance to torture,” and has also declined to respond to questions from Computer Weekly about the allegations.

Documents provided by Reprieve include invoices that show that CSC chartered N982RK, a Gulfstream jet, on the date El-Masri was abducted and logs provided by the civil-military air traffic safety regulator EuroControl show that N982RK few in stages from Washington to Kabul on May 26, 2004, and then to Kucova air base.

Aviation authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina called attention to the unusual flight patterns of the plane which had requested diplomatic permissions under a CIA identifier.

The U.S. has since admitted the abduction to German premier Angela Merkel.

“We think CSC was at the top of the contracting tree for this (CIA operation),” said Reprieve researcher Dr. Crofton Black. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that CSC was the prime contractor between the government and the companies that ran the flight operations.”

German ministries have been sharing IT services with the CIA and NSA and now it is learned that the German government does business with a company involved in abduction and torture—at a pretty handsome profit. http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/67143760611/outsourcing-intelligence-sinks-germany-further-into

For years, CSC was one of the CIA’s largest contractors and records show that the CIA paid the firm $11 million to have el-Masri picked up in Kabul and subsequently tortured for months on end before finally being released as a victim of mistaken identity.

One online news story about the company notes that CSC is a “massive company,” with at least 11 subsidiaries in 16 locations in Germany alone. CSC and its subsidiaries are part of a secret industry, the military intelligence industry but do the “traditionally reserved for the military and intelligence agencies,” but at cheaper rates and under “much less scrutiny.

Germany has paid the company some $405 million since 1990 and over the past five years, the country has awarded more than 100 contracts to CSC and its subsidiaries.

The story said it is “no coincidence” that the company’s various German offices are often located near U.S. military bases.

Cyber Research Park and Barksdale AFB, home of the U.S. Air Force’s 2nd Bomb Wing and Global Strike Command, and nearly adjacent in their proximity to each other, with the proposed CSC facility and Barksdale separated only by I-20.

Coincidence?

We certainly hope so.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—The Walton Family Foundation, already the largest single donor to Teach for America (TFA), recently committed an additional $20 million to recruit, train and place an another 4,000 unqualified teachers in America’s classrooms.

That includes $3 million to the New Orleans region, administered by one Kira Orange Jones who sits on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) which just happens to be the agency that contracts with TFA for those novice teachers.

In case you live in a cave, the Walton Family Foundation is the benevolent offshoot of Wal-Mart, one of the most successful retail businesses in American history but which is alone responsible for the demise of more neighborhood mom and pop stores than any one factor since the Great Depression—all while enjoying the benefit of almost $100 million in various tax breaks in 19 Louisiana cities, according to incomplete figures that do not include newer state stores.

More on that later.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics, apparently kept in the dark as to Jones’ title of Executive Director of the New Orleans TFA regional office, ruled that her serving on BESE was not a conflict because her salary was not affected by the contracts with the state.

The ethics board member—its vice chairman—who lulled the board into believing she was a mere rank and file employee of TFA, has since resigned after it was revealed that he had his own conflict as a legal counsel for Tulane University which also had a contract with TFA.

LouisianaVoice recently obtained through a public records request of the Department of Education (DOE) copies of three separate contracts between DOE’s Recovery School District (RSD) and TFA. Two of those contracts, dated in September of 2009 and 2011, were signed by Kira Orange Jones, complete with the notation beneath her signature identifying her as “Executive Director.”

Exercising a bit more caution in 2012, the contract was signed by Michael Tipton, Jones’ boss.

Those contracts, by the way, called for the state to pay TFA up to $5,000 per teacher provided for RSD—up to 40 teachers—and RSD would then be required to pay their salaries.

TFA alumnus Jack Carey, vice president of the greater New Orleans program said the money would fund more than 500 positions in the 2013 to 2015 school years, though with the state paying that generous “finder’s fee,” and local school boards paying the salaries, it’s rather difficult to imagine why an additional $3 million is needed other than to surmise the whole TFA thing is one gigantic scam designed to line someone’s pockets. That “someone” would be someone other than Louisiana teachers who have invested thousands of dollars on bachelor’s, master’s, and plus-30s and even Ph.Ds., but suddenly find themselves taking a back seat to those who train for five weeks over the summer to become teachers.

But it’s not only established teachers who take a dim view of TFA. Many of TFA’s own alumni are critical of the organization to which they once pledged their loyalty.

http://truth-out.org/articles/item/17750-teach-for-america-apostates-a-primer-of-alumni-resistance

One former TFA teacher now says that the organization glosses over issues of race and inequality but “fits very nicely into an overall strategy of privatizing education and diminishing critical thinking.”

Whenever a TFA teacher begins to questions the motives and intent of the program, “The staff would get together and talk about how to handle these people,” another former TFA member says. “They’d plunk him down with groups of ‘stronger corps members’ to improve his attitude” by “trying to further indoctrinate others and myself.”

Yet another dissident said he no longer recognized TFA. “All I see is a bunch of liars who are getting themselves rich and powerful. They just can’t stop lying.” He added that TFA refuses to recognize established evidence that a child’s socioeconomic level at birth better predicts his future tax bracket and educational attainment than how well her teachers prepare him for standardized tests.

“We really get to know what schools across our community need in the way of high-quality teachers,” Carey said, “and we work with them over the course of a year to understand their needs and help make great matches.”

Wow. How noble.

But perhaps Mr. Carey has not taken a trip down to the Ninth Ward to George Washington Carver High School.

I have.

Has Kira Orange Jones toured Carver High?

I have.

Washington Carver High School is the alma mater of Marshall Faulk, Heisman Trophy runner-up at San Diego State and all-pro running back for the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams (where he won a Super Bowl).

But you’d never know it.

Eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the entire Ninth Ward, the school still has not been rebuilt. Today, it consists entirely of T-buildings. Superintendent of Education John White’s annual report, released last February, lists Carver as among the schools scheduled for new construction. Even though the proposed construction is to be funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), no steps have actually been taken to start construction other than the naming of two architectural firms. No contractor, though, eight years post-Katrina.

The football weight room is pathetic, consisting of three or four weight benches any other school would have thrown out years ago. There is no cover for the foam padding on the benches—padding that is crumbling. And the players’ lockers consist of plastic bins scattered across the floor—easy pickings for anyone who wanted to steal a watch or an i-Pod.

No one visiting the T-building weight room would ever believe that an NFL Super Bowl player once escaped the Desire Housing Project by playing his high school ball here.

Despite these conditions, George Washington Carver made it to the quarter-final round of the state high school football playoffs last year.

But far worse than the deplorable athletic facilities eight years post-Katrina is the fact that incredulous as it may sound, the school has no library.

Let that sink in. There is a public high school in Louisiana today that does not have a library.

Yet John White and Bobby Jindal and BESE President Chas Roemer would have us believe they’re all about education.

Gov. Jindal, Superintendent White, Chas Roemer, BESE member/TFA Director Kira Jones: what say you to the revelation that a public high school has allowed to exist under your watch that has no library? A school comprised exclusively of T-buildings? We’d love to hear your take on this. But please don’t hide behind Kyle Plotkin or your respective public relations sycophants in your response. (Surely is quiet; are those crickets we hear chirping?)

And so the Walton Family Foundation goes about with its press releases that glorify its generosity on behalf of education.

In truth, the Walton Family Foundation is all about the Waltons. TFA is simply the vehicle by which the Waltons try to put on their civic face. They are probably among the least civic minded of all.

Remember those patriotic television ads of a few years back when Wal-Mart was all about “American made” products? How long has it been since you’ve seen one of those ads? But we do hear about Bangladesh sweat shops collapsing on workers even as they turn out products for Wal-Mart.

And we hear plenty about how Wal-Mart exploits its U.S. workers with low wages and no benefits—all so it can keep corporate earnings up and competition out.

Wal-Mart is all about tax credits and making money. Here are 20 examples of economic development subsidies in 19 Louisiana cities, subsidies that total $96.5 million (the figures are probably higher because it’s virtually impossible to get updated figures from the Louisiana Department of Economic Development):

  • Abbeville: $1.665 million;
  • Alexandria: $2.5 million;
  • Bossier City: $1.7 million;
  • East Baton Rouge: $1.385 million;
  • Hammond: $1.365 million;
  • Monroe (Supercenter): $840,000;
  • Monroe (former discount store) $3.09 million;
  • Natchitoches: $1.5 million;
  • New Orleans: $7 million (estimate);
  • Opelousas (distribution center): $33 million;
  • Port Allen: $1 million;
  • Robert (distribution center): more than $21 million;
  • Ruston: more than $947,000;
  • Shreveport: $6.3 million;
  • St. Martinville: $3.725 million;
  • Sulphur: $1.8 million;
  • Vidalia: up to $1.65 million.

Wal-Mart’s expansion has been made possible to a large extent by the generous use of public money. This includes more than $1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land, infrastructure assistance, low-cost financing and outright grants from state and local governments, though the precise figures aren’t always available.

That’s because in Ruston, for example, the total subsidy was more than $947,000. That included a $647,000 enterprise zone tax break, plus $300,000 from the city in infrastructure improvements around the site through a state grant. But the city also made $12 million in road improvements throughout the area through a sales tax increment financing district. But since the district includes neighboring developments and because other area businesses benefitted from the road improvements, the benefits to Wal-Mart were impossible to quantify.

In addition, Louisiana Wal-Mart stores also receive about $5.4 million a year from a state policy that allows stories to keep a portion of the sales tax they collect from customers.

So, while the Walton Family Foundation gives itself a metaphoric pat on the back with its news release trumpeting its $20 million gift to TFA ($3 million allocated to Louisiana), it conveniently ignores how it has managed more than a billion dollars in tax dodges (nearly $100 million in Louisiana)—money that could have been used to support education.

Like perhaps permanent buildings, including a library, at George Washington Carver High School.

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We’ve been trying to spread the message for some time now about how the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal is cognizant only of the well-being of Bobby Jindal and his presidential aspirations which, by the way, are evaporating like so much acetone-based nail polish remover.

We’ve sounded the alarm on reforms to public education, budget cuts to higher education, attempted pension reforms, privatization, the firing of state appointed officials and the demotion of legislators, the refusal to accept federal funding for Medicaid, broadband internet, a rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, early childhood intervention and federal stimulus funds (though there seems to be no compunction about all that federal highway money that the state receives, nor hurricane relief when it’s needed).

We’ve written extensively about how the appointments to plum commissions and boards seem to gravitate toward big campaign contributors and how the appointees use their purchased positions to inflict the whims of the governor on state institutions and state employees.

And we were first to sound the alarm, thanks to a timely heads-up State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux), that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had not approved the Jindal administration’s half-baked state hospital privatization plan—a development which could cost the state another $800 million in Medicaid funds if the state does not submit its plan for approval in time for the adoption of next year’s state budget.

Now, though, it seems that others are beginning to catch on. There are rumblings of discontent in the Legislature, the Board of Regents backed the governor down in his attempt to fire the commissioner of higher education, the state school principals association simply walked away from a state-sponsored Principal of the Year contest over the criteria imposed on the selection process by Education Superintendent John White.

We broke the initial story about White’s decision to provide personal data on all Louisiana public school students to inBloom, a massive computer data bank controlled by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch. The backlash from that story has forced White to back down on the agreement with inBloom, though we’re still skeptical about the legitimacy of his announcement that he was calling the information back into the Department of Education. It seems to us that it might be a little difficult to take back what was already submitted to inBloom. Kind of like getting the genie back into the bottle.

We are told, by the way, that White and his minions have literally freaked out over our latest request for public records relative to the DOE Value Added Model (VAM) for teacher evaluations. Apparently, there is some information in the records we requested that he desperately does not want the public to know.

And of course, there is that federal investigation looming over the governor’s office regarding that $184 million contract awarded to CNSI by its former employee, Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein. Greenstein was the first domino to fall in that little scandal and there could be more.

But now, state employees, while still maintaining their anonymity for the sake of keeping their jobs, are starting to sound off and they’re doing so loudly and clearly.

The essay below was penned by a state employee. We know the employee’s name but we are sworn to secrecy to protect a state worker who has seen wanton disregard for propriety and ethics up close and personal.

To summarize, the essay is about the surreptitious retaining of Ruth Johnson, retired Department of Children and Family Services Director, to a $49,900 contract from Feb. 18 through June 14 at which time she is expected to be hired full time at a six-figure salary.

Contract Details

Contract Number 720077
Contract Title DOA/OIT & RUTH JOHNSON
Contract Description PROVIDE CONSULTING, RESEARCH, ANALYSIS, AND ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT TO THE OFFICE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOR ALL MATTER S RELATED TO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES. 100% STATE GENERAL; $80/HOUR PLUS $4,377.60 TRAVEL
Agency DOA-OFFICE OF CIO
Amount $49,900.00
Begin Date 2/18/2013
End Date 6/14/2013
Approval Date 3/14/2013
Document Type CONSULTING CONTRACT-CFMS
Status ENCUMBRANCE SUCCESSFUL
Contractor RUTH JOHNSON
Contractor City and State BATON ROUGE, LA

So why put her on contract instead of hiring her outright?

For that answer, refer back to her contract, which runs through mid-June.

The Legislature, by law, is required to adjourn no later than June 6. When her contract expires, it will be too late for her appointment to full time status to be confirmed by the State Senate.

By going the route of a contract through June 14, DOA avoids the messy confirmation process and as we shall see in the essay below, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) has already seen through the ruse.

Here is the essay by Anonymous:

As I read recent headlines regarding the current administration, I find myself pausing to take a reflective look back. What I see saddens me.

There are so many who have chosen to defile the system with little regard or respect for their colleagues, Louisiana law, and even the Legislature for that matter. Some might even go as far as to say they’ve done so with an incredible degree of arrogance—assuming no one around them will notice. Maybe they assume no one will speak up. Maybe they have, like Jindal, become too callous to care. But I want to take a second to assure you—especially those “insiders” monitoring this blog—that your colleagues do notice.

Last Thursday, on the floor of the State Senate, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) called attention to a particular contract the administration planned to sneak by state employees and the legislature. You know the one that contracts out the Chief Information Officer position to former DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson?

Yep, that one. It’s the one that seems to us, to be an attempt to circumvent both the legislative process as well as Louisiana law. It’s the same contract that fills what statute says must be an appointed and unclassified position—with a contractor, or vendor, if you will. It is the contract that was written for $49,900 (just $100 below the $50,000 level that requires approval of Contractual Review). And it’s the same one that expires one week after the session ends which would allow Ms. Johnson to avoid a confirmation hearing.

And most importantly, it is the one that allows Ms. Johnson to return to State service as a rehired retiree without having to follow any of the guidelines outlined by LASERS. href=”http://www.lasersonline.org/uploads/21ProceduresWhenHiringReemployedRetirees.pdf).”>http://www.lasersonline.org/uploads/21ProceduresWhenHiringReemployedRetirees.pdf).

Yes, they have been watching.

Do you know what else they’ve seen? How about that new position created for a family member of a current Louisiana Congressman? The $150,000 position that did not exist before now? They noticed. And are you aware they also noticed that the holder of that position, Jan Cassidy, called a state employee prior to her arrival to ensure a state contract won by her employer at the time (ACS/Xerox) was pushed through before she arrived? You didn’t think they would see that either, did you?

I’m sure it seems unbelievable they might not be as naive to the wrong doing as you assumed. Employees aren’t supposed to question things. But they have been. And you should know they’ve been watching much further back than just the past year.

They all noticed that job you filled with a family member of a prominent public servant only a few months after laying off a number of employees from the same area. They all noticed how the spouse of the current Deputy Commissioner was able to gain rights to a classified position, available when and if her unclassified one comes to an end. They saw the ethical violations involved as she discussed matters directly with her spouse and HR Director at the time.

And if it isn’t enough that the Deputy Commissioner is indirectly supervising his spouse, he actually ensured she was placed in the best position she could qualify for at the time. Yes, the gullible, never-figures-out-your-secrets employees noticed. And not surprisingly, it would seem as if a close friend of said spouse noticed as well. How else could someone close to retirement, who supervises no one, snag a $15,000 raise while her colleagues continue to work alongside her with no merit increases or opportunities to move forward.

Yes they have seen the Tim Barfields and the Bruce Greensteins – same people only differing faces. They have passed all of you in the halls, the parking lots, and sometimes at various functions and ponder how you could smile at them and make light of current events. They wonder how you walk these halls and look them in the eyes as if you haven’t plundered them for your own advancements.

And while they may not show it outwardly, they know what you have done for yourselves at the expense of others. They know who signed the papers and who pushed through the favors and you can bet they only wish they could ask you if it’s worth it. Is being on the inside with an inflated sense of entitlement and self-worth so much that you’d sell your integrity to move yourself forward? Is it worth losing any remaining respect your colleagues might have had for you? Is it worth not only stealing from and lying to the public, but also to the people you interact with on a daily basis?

I hope it is. Because in the end, that money and “insider” status is all you’ll have. Someday you’ll realize those are just temporary tokens you can’t take with you when you leave this place or when you yourself become one of this administration’s sacrificial lambs. Surely you can ask Bruce Greenstein about that one. I imagine he’d tell you that politicians will wither and fade, as will your self-imposed status, and you’ll be left with the people you stepped on and stole from to get to where you are. Maybe then, when you don’t think you hold the cards, maybe that will be a better time to ask – was it worth it?

And don’t worry – as always, they will be watching.

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NOTE: The following is an account of the stonewalling and violation of state law by the State Division of Administration (DOA) experienced by LouisianaVoice publisher Tom Aswell in an effort to obtain public records from DOA:

The email from the Commissioner of Administration’s office was apparently sent to several state agencies in the Claiborne Building on Tuesday.

It’s contents were terse and to the point:

Subject: Commissioner’s Suite

Due to a recent incident in the Commissioner’s suite, no one without proper access will be allowed into the area. If you need to see me or anyone else in legal, you must first call/e-mail to let us know you are coming over. You will not be buzzed into the area without first notifying us.

Unfortunately, this also includes student workers who come by on a regular basis to bring/and pick up documents.

Well, henceforth I guess it is okay to refer to me and LouisianaVoice as “Recent Incident” because that email from the still unknown author—I suspect it came from legal counsel David Boggs’ office—was about me.

First, some background.

I have historically encountered an almost incredible resistance on the part of this administration to release public records. If it’s not the claim of exemption under the tired blanket excuse of “deliberative process,” it’s the interminable delay due to the more recent explanation that “We are still searching for records and reviewing them for exemptions and privileges.”

Well, that handy little tactic of blowing smoke up my toga has allowed DOA to camp out on our request for weeks in open violation of the state’s public records law.

So, after submitting requests for records dating back to March 6 and March 10, I got tired of waiting and made a little trip to the Claiborne Building behind the State Capitol. That’s where DOA Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols parks her desk name plate—for now. She seems to move around a lot.

I walked up to the guard desk and signed in the visitors’ log book, indicating that I intended to visit DOA on the seventh floor. That’s what I wrote: Agency—DOA; Floor—7. It’s on the book, neat and proper. But then I told what could be construed as a little white lie when I informed the guard I was visiting another office first. Except it wasn’t a lie. I did drop by the other office to say hello to a couple of old friends.

Then I rode the elevator up to the seventh floor, walked to the commissioner’s office and rang the bell (the door is locked and visitors must be admitted by electronic control). The door clicked immediately and I entered and walked up to the receptionist’s desk.

“I’d like to see David Boggs, please,” I said with all of my Southern polite upbringing. (I had no quarrel with the receptionist; she’s one of the thousands of rank and file employees that Gov. Jindal holds in utter contempt so if anything, I empathize with her and others like her who most likely have not had a pay raise in something like four years now.)

After I explained that I was there to obtain public records, she picked up the phone and called someone—I assume Boggs’ office and explained that I wished to speak with him. She said a few words, listened for a few moments and then turned back to me. “How did you get here?” she asked.

A little irritated now, I said, “I walked in the front door downstairs.”

“No, how did you get up here?”

“I took the elevator.”

Somewhat exasperated at my not-so-artful dodging, she said, I mean, how did you get past the guard station? You’re not supposed to be up here.”

“Well, I signed in, told the guard I was going to another agency, which I did, and then I came up here.”

“Sir, you know that’s not the proper way to do things. You can’t just walk in here like that. You have to check in…”

“I did.”

“…Check in with the guard and call up here and we’ll send someone down to see you.”

“What? I’m already here now. Why can’t that ‘someone’ just come out and talk to me?”

“Because that’s not how we do it. Go downstairs, call up and we’ll send someone down to see you.”

Thoroughly agitated and by now having abandoned my genteel Southern upbringing, I stormed out muttering to myself about Darwin being correct after all and went back to the guard station downstairs. I dutifully placed my call and whoever answered (I don’t think it was the same person), said someone would be down to see me shortly. I told her to be sure to send someone in authority (as if that person even exists in this administration).

After about 15 minutes, a uniformed guard, a very polite and soft-spoken gentleman who had been at the guard desk the entire time, approached me to say DOA had just called him and instructed him to take my printed request and delivered it upstairs.

“No, sir,” I responded. “I want the custodian of the records who by law is required to provide me with the requested records.”

The guard smiled and said, “I’m only doing what I’m told. I work for them.”

“I understand that, but you’re not the custodian of the records,” I told him as I started dialing. As the phone rang, I further told the guard, “I want you to understand that I’m not offended in any way by you and I hope I haven’t offended you. It’s just that you are not the one with authority to release the records.”

“I understand,” he said, smiling.

I finally got yet another person (I think; I really could not distinguish the voices) and explained what I wanted. If I was angry before, the response I got sent me through the roof.

“Sir, we cannot give you the records today because we have to do stuff to them.”

“What?! I requested these records more than a month ago! What do you mean you can’t give them to me?”

“Sir, we have three days in which to give you the records…”

“No! No, you do not! The state public records law stipulates that you must allow me to examine and copy the records upon my appearance at your office. You do not have three days.” (If a record is unavailable, the custodian of the records has three days in which to respond in writing as to why the record is not available and to say when it will be available. That’s the only reference to three days in the statute.) http://www.tulane.edu/~telc/html/prr.htm

“Not only that,” I continued, “even if you did have three days, I submitted the requests on March 6 and March 10. Today’s the 16th of April. I think you’ve exceeded your mythical three-day time frame.”

“Sir, you are not allowed up here. We will get the information to you when we can.”

At that point, all I could do was go home and try to cool down. That didn’t happen. I’m still angry at a governor who could lie so convincingly about being “open and transparent” and yet allow this kind of thing to take place. And worse, I’m still angry that there are those who still believe the Jindal Lie.

And about that email: I guess it’s only appropriate that the building go into lockdown any time I cross the Amite River from Livingston Parish into Baton Rouge. At nearly 70 years of age and with a 180-pound body of sagging flesh draped across brittle bones, I guess I make a pretty imposing sight for Bobby Jindal, et al. (Of course, a Shih Tzu puppy could intimidate this governor.) Obviously I’m some kind of ogre against whom the state must be protected at all costs. A clear and present danger, as it were.

Borrowing a line from the intro of the Kingston Trio 1959 hit song, The MTA: “Citizens, hear me out. This could happen to you.”

Perhaps that is why State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux) has introduced HB 19 this year in an effort to make records in the governor’s office more accessible to the public.

Richard, you may recall, is the one who sounded the alarm about the state’s failure to receive Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approval of Jindal’s plan to privatize and close state medical facilities—a failure that Richard said could cost the state another $800 million in Medicaid funding.

HB19, co-authored by State Sen. Rick Gallot (D-Ruston), would make “all records of the governor’s office subject to public records laws”—with the usual exemptions for sensitive documents recognized for other agencies throughout local and state government, of course.

Richard is simply attempting to remove the cloak of secrecy that has existed since Jindal pushed through legislation in 2007 right after taking office that he said strengthened the state’s ethics laws but which in reality, gutted the ethics laws, diluted the Ethics Board’s authority and made records in the governor’s office off limits.

If you truly care about this state and sincerely wish to see a more responsive government in Baton Rouge, you might wish to send an email or make a telephone call to your legislators and talk up Richard’s bill.

Right now, even if it passes, it’s certain to be vetoed by Jindal. Only a groundswell of public support for the bill will convince the legislature to approve the bill and prevail upon Jindal to sign it into law.

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State officials apparently sees no problem when it comes to rushing through legislation that affects tens of thousands of Louisiana public school students or locking Louisiana into long-term tax relief for industries with little or no tangible benefits to the state but less than three months after its passage, a program approved by the Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) to give consumers an avenue to reduce energy costs may be scrapped.

The PSC is scheduled to vote on Wednesday to repeal the statewide energy-efficiency program to develop ways to cut down on power consumption to help save money for hundreds of thousands of homeowners and businesses.

Utilities would be required to file annual reports with the PSC that provide energy savings estimates and annual load reductions. The first phase, Quick Start, is scheduled to last a little less than four years from which point utilities will develop longer-term plans.

The problem? The program is expected to cost utilities between $25 million and $30 million. And guess who pours money into the campaigns of PSC members?

So now, while the ink is still wet on the regulation approved last Dec. 12, new PSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta (R-Metairie), himself the recipient of $45,000 in campaign contributions from energy-related firms and political action committees, has deemed that the ugly break for low- and middle-income consumers is a bad, bad thing and should be repealed henceforth.

It’s okay to hand out $5 billion a year in corporate tax breaks, exemptions, waivers and rebates but apparently taboo to take any action beneficial to consumers.

Remember what they say about money and B.S. and talking and walking.

Forty-six states currently offer Energy Efficiency programs to help consumers save energy costs (a program beneficial to everyone except the utility companies).

Heavy industrial users, which make up about half of Entergy’s Louisiana power consumption, are ineligible to participate if they use more than five megawatts of electricity, or about five times the average household consumption.

The initiative passed by 4-1 vote in December with Skrmetta voting in favor despite his stated opposition.

Contact numbers for PSC members are:

Eric Skrmetta (Metairie): 504-846-6930
Scott Angelle (Baton Rouge): 225-342-6900
Lambert Boissiere (New Orleans): 504-680-9529
Clyde Holloway (Forest Hill): 318-748-4715
Foster Campbell (Elm Grove): 318-676-7464

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Whenever Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks, be it on Fox News, CNN, to fellow Republican governors or at a rare press conference such as the one held on Thursday, his threefold purpose always seems to be to inflate weak ideology, obscure poor reasoning and inhibit clarity.

His less-than-masterful tax plan for the state, which he admitted to reporters is like so many of his ill-conceived programs in that it actually remains a non-plan, might well be entitled “The Dynamics of Irrational and Mythical Imperatives of Tax Reform: A Study in Psychic Trans-Relational Fiscal Recovery Modes” (with apologies to Calvin and Hobbes, our all-time favorite comic strip).

It’s not certain what drives him to wade off into these issues (see: hospital and prison closures, higher education cutbacks, charter schools, online courses and vouchers, state employee retirement “reform,” and privatization of efficiently-operating state agencies like the Office of Group Benefits) but his actions are probably precipitated by deeply ingrained biological, psychological and sociological imperatives that have triggered a reduced functionality in the cerebral cortex (Pickles).

Or it could be some depraved attempt to inflict vengeance on society because his two imaginary childhood friends teased him and wouldn’t let him play with them.

And though he insists he has the job he wants, we can’t help but wonder if he isn’t even now casting a covetous sidelong look at the advantages of plundering (Frazz) in case his presidential aspirations fail to materialize.

The reason for all this speculation is brought on by his admission in that ever-so-brief (less than 12 minutes or six question, whichever came first) press conference Thursday that the administration does not have a proposal as yet to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes despite his well-publicized announcement that he wants to scrap state income taxes for individuals and corporations (especially corporations) in a “revenue neutral” way that would most likely involve increased sales taxes.

But he doesn’t have a proposal yet.

Are you listening, legislators? He doesn’t have a proposal yet. That means the onus is going to be on you and if he doesn’t have his way with you (as he has for the past five years—and you can take that any way you please), he’s going public with the blame game.

If everything goes south, you don’t really think he’s going to take the blame, do you?

He doesn’t have a proposal yet. Now we see where State Superintendent John White gets his prompts on running the Department of Education. White has not submitted a completed plan for any project begun at DOE since he took over; everything—vouchers, charters, course choice—is in a constant state of flux. He announces rules, retracts, readjusts, re-evaluates only to lose a lawsuit over the way his boss proposed to fund state vouchers.

Jindal doesn’t have a proposal—for anything. His retirement “reform” package for state employees was a disaster from the get go. Even before he lost yet another court decision on that issue in January, the matter of whether or not the proposed plan for new hires was an IRS-qualified plan—meaning a plan the IRS would accept in lieu of social security—remained unresolved.

He didn’t have a proposal: let’s just do it and see later if the IRS will accept it. Throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.

Remember when he vetoed a bill two years ago to renew a five-cent tax on cigarettes because, he said, he was opposed to new taxes (it was a renewal!)? Well, now he’s considering a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.

“Everything is on the table,” he said. “That’s the way it should be.”

But isn’t he the same governor who closed hospitals and prisons without so much as a heads-up to legislators in the areas affected.

Isn’t he the same governor who rejected a federal grant to make boardband internet available to rural areas of the state but had no alternative plan for broadband?

Isn’t he the same governor who continues to resist ObamaCare at the cost of millions of dollars in Medicaid funding to provide medical care for the state’s poor?

He said he is looking at different ways to protect low- and middle-income citizens.

By increasing the state sales tax by nearly two cents on the dollar? By rejecting another $50 million federal grant for early childhood development? By shuttering battered women’s shelters and attempting to terminate state funding for hospice? By pushing for more and more tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Louisiana citizens? By appointing former legislators to six-figure state jobs for which they’re wholly unqualified while denying raises to the state’s working stiffs? Yeah, that’ll really protect the low income people of the state.

“It’s way too early to make decisions on what’s in and out of the plan,” he said of the soon-to-be proposed (we assume) income tax re-haul.

Well, Governor, it’s your job to make decisions, to come up with a proposal to present to the legislature so House and Senate members may have sufficient time to debate the issues—unlike your sweeping education package of a year ago.

In your response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this week (not your disastrous response in 2009 in which the Republican Party subjected you to national ridicule), you said, “With four more years in office, he (Obama) needs to step up to the plate and do the job he was elected to do.”

That’s right, folks. You can’t make up stuff this good. The response is so easy that it’s embarrassing but here goes:

Pot, meet Kettle.

In retrospect, drawing on comic strip for inspiration when writing about Jindal somehow seems entirely appropriate.

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“If you’ve got some states doing it, it’s hard for the others not to do it. It’s like unilaterally disarming.”

—Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, on his unsuccessful efforts to rein in the runaway trend toward tax incentives offered by states to lure industry.

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Unless the Revenue Study Commission’s report on the state’s tax structure is destined to become just another government study that gathers dust, it must address one significant fact: that for every dollar in the state’s budget, 21 additional cents is given away in tax incentives, exemptions and credits.

The report is scheduled to be released sometime shortly after the first of the year.

The state, as has been the case the past several years, is facing a budgetary shortfall of about $1 billion for Fiscal Year 2013-14 and the Jindal administration on Friday, Dec. 14., announced another budget cut, this one $166 million—all in health care for the poor.

For the current budget of $25 billion, the state each year gives away almost $5 billion in various tax breaks which range from enterprise zone credits to 10-year property tax exemptions to sales and use tax rebates.

Louisiana corporate and industrial tax incentives were only $59 million as recently as 2001. The surge, of course, translates to less revenue in the state budget but Gov. Piyush Jindal has refused to offset the revenue losses with increased taxes elsewhere, choosing instead to cut services. As a consequence, higher education and health care have incurred devastating cuts.

Put another way, the Jindal administration continues to insist on transferring money from education and health care to businesses.

Louisiana commits $394 for every man, woman and child each year in tax breaks to manufacturers, retail outlets and movie production companies through the Louisiana Office of Economic Development (LED).

Those include:

• LED FastStart, which creates customized employee recruiting, screening and training solutions for eligible companies;

• Angel Investor Tax Credit of up to 35 percent for start-up and expansion investors;

• Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Incentive;

• Enterprise Zone tax credits of $2,500 for each new job created;

• Industrial tax exemption of 100 percent for up to 10 years on new manufacturing investment;

• Motion Picture Investor transferrable tax credit of up to 30 percent;

• Musical and Theatrical Production tax credit of 25 percent to 35 percent;

• Ports of Louisiana investor tax credit program to promote Louisiana ports;

• Quality Jobs program that offers up to 6 percent in rebates on annual payroll expenses for up to 10 years;

• Research and Development tax credits of up to 40 percent to existing businesses;

• Restoration Tax Abatement of 100 percent for five years for rehabilitation of existing structures;

• Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit of 25 percent;

• Technology Commercialization Credit and Jobs Program offering a 40 percent refundable tax credit and a 6 percent payroll rebate for firms that invest in the commercialization of Louisiana technology.

The New York Times recently conducted an extensive investigation into state tax incentives that revealed that Louisiana’s $1.79 billion in business tax breaks ranks 11th in the nation.

Local governments give up $9.1 million per hour ($80 billion per year) in tax incentives to business and industry, according to the Times story.

Movie maker Oliver Stone criticizes subsidies to industries but defends similar subsidies for movie production, the story noted.

Moreover, the $394 per capita cost is eighth highest in the U.S. and the 21-cent cost per state budget dollar is seventh highest in the country.

That $1.79 billion includes $1.61 billion in corporate income tax credits, rebates and reductions and $75 million in property tax abatement.

But one thing the Times story neglected to point out in its report is that the $1.79 billion in corporate tax breaks represents only about 40 percent of the total tax breaks given by Louisiana through other exemptions, including those for hazardous waste disposal, gift taxes, inheritance taxes, sales taxes on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, food and prescription drugs.

Only six other states had a higher ratio of tax incentives to state budget. Texas granted 51 cents per state budget dollar in corporate tax incentives. Following, in order were Nebraska (39 cents), Oklahoma and West Virginia (37 cents), Vermont (31 cents) and Michigan (30 cents).

Not surprisingly, Texas has the most corporate tax exemptions with $19.1 billion.

But Louisiana, like so many other states has plunged headlong into the ever-escalating race for industry and jobs and again, like other states, has placed a tremendous strain on state finances.

The current obsession with tax breaks began with the repeal of the Stelly Plan in Gov. Piyush Jindal’s first few months in office in 2008, a move that has cost the state approximately $300 million per year.

The repeal of the Stelly Plan, according to Jindal, was supposed to save individual taxpayers between $500 and $1,000 per year. But to save $500, a single filer would have to earn as much as $90,000 and joint filers would have to make more than $150,000 a year to save $1,000.

But the revenue losses caused by the ill-advised repeal of the Stelly Plan are dwarfed by the losses to the state treasury that have resulted in corporate tax incentives granted for projects that have produced few or no jobs.

In 2011, for example, the Board of Commerce and Industry approved exemptions totaling more than $2 billion in enterprise zone and property tax exemptions for new and expanded businesses that produced a mere 7,300 jobs, many of those low-salaried jobs.

But not even those comparatively few jobs turn out to be permanent.

• The Ormet Corporation kicked about 200 of its employees in Ascension Parish to the curb in November, only about a year after receiving tax credits worth about $1 million and a performance-based loan of $1.5 million from the state.

• International Paper Co. received more than $55 million in tax breaks while creating only 107 new jobs over the four-year period from 2008-2011. But that did not prevent IP from shutting down its plant in Bastrop in 2008 and another in Minden last May, putting 610 employees out of work.

• The $26.3 million in tax incentives received from the state by General Motors in 2008 and 2009 produced no new jobs and worse, failed to prevent closure of its Shreveport plant which sent 950 workers to the unemployment lines.

• Dow Chemical continued taking tax incentives from the state, even after announcing in 2009 that 2,500 workers would lose their jobs when three Louisiana plants that make ethylene and derivatives would close. Over the four years from 2008 through 2011, Dow accepted $70.3 million in tax incentives that resulted in not a single new job.

That could be because many established plants submit applications for renewals of existing 10-year exemptions, citing plant modernizations or improvements as justification for the continued tax break when in reality, many of the so-called modernization projects involve little more than landscaping, changing a few light bulbs or similar routine maintenance projects.

But even worse is the gnawing appearance of quid pro quo. Many recipients of the state’s generous tax incentives also made generous campaign contributions to Gov. Piyush Jindal.

In all, 29 separate entities received 32 tax exemptions totaling $774 million over the four-year period. Those same 29 have made $135,700 in campaign contributions to Jindal.

Some of the recipients, followed by total tax breaks and campaign contributions to Jindal, include:

• CLECO ($169 million, $14,000);

• Calumet Lubricants ($105 million, $1,000);

• Dow Chemical ($70.3 million, $13,000);

• Exxon/Mobil ($13.3 million, $11,000);

• Century Tel ($24.6 million, $5,000);

• The Coca Cola Co. ($23.9 million, $2,500);

• PPG Industries ($23.2 million, $1,000);

• Marathon Oil ($27.7 million, $11,000);

• Monsanto Co. ($38.7 million, $5,000);

• Conoco Phillips ($37.2 million, $5,000);

• General Motors ($26.7 million, $2,500);

• Stupp Corp. ($25.9 million, $6,000);

• DuPont ($21.3 million, $1,000);

• Select Energy ($14.3 million, $5,000);

• Dynamic Industries ($13.6 million, $5,000);

• General Electric ($11.2 million, $5,000);

• Syngenta Crop Protection ($11 million, $1,000);

• Georgia Pacific ($10.7 million, $4,200);

• Targa Midstream Services ($7.88 million, $5,000);

• Weyerhaeuser ($3.98 million, $5,000);

• Bollinger Shipyards and affiliated companies ($9.36 million, $63,850);

• Chevron ($3.7 million, $1,000);

• Rouse’s Enterprises ($3.48 million, $5,000);

• The GEO Group ($3 million), $5,000);

• Wal-Mart ($2.59 million, $5,000);

• Walgreens ($2.59 million, $5,000);

• Bruce Foods ($2.5 million, $4,500);

• Turner Industries ($2.42 million, $5,000);

• Boh Brothers ($1.76 million, $1,000);

In addition to campaign contributions, which are limited to $5,000 per individual per election cycle, several of the recipients of tax incentives have contributed even more generously to the Supriya Jindal Foundation, established by Jindal’s wife six months after Jindal took office.

Among the contributors are charter members (who give a minimum of $250,000) Marathon Oil, Dow Chemical and Wal-Mart.

Chevron is among the foundation’s Platinum members who pledge a minimum of $50,000.

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