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PLEASE MOVE TO THE END OF THE LINE(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

On the eve of Bobby Jindal’s anticipated earth shaking announcement that he is squeezing himself into the clown car of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, I thought we should let our readers know that I am still on the job, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

As we wait with collective bated breath for word that Bobby is not only available but more than willing to do for the nation what he has done for Louisiana (God help us all, Tiny Tim), I remain cloistered in my cluttered home office, working diligently on my book, as yet untitled, in which I intend to fully document precisely what he has done for to Louisiana.

Among the topics to be covered are public education, higher education, health care, the state budget, campaign contributions, political appointments, ethics, privatization, his ALEC connections, the explosion in corporate tax breaks during his two terms, the lack of progress as reflected in myriad state rankings and surveys throughout his eight years as our largely absentee governor, the lack of transparency, his thinly veiled use of foundations and non-profit organizations to advance his political career, his intolerance for dissent (teaguing), his actual performance as compared to campaign promises as candidate Bobby, and his general incompetence.

I was asked on a local radio show if I could be fair to Jindal, given my personal feelings about his abilities as reflected in more than a thousand posts on this site. The short answer is: probably not. The long answer is I can—and will—be as fair to him as he has been to the state I love and call home. Because I do not claim to be objective (as opposed to the paid media who cling to that word as if it were some kind of Holy Grail), I am not bound by any rules that place limits on the expression of my opinions. I see what he has done, I understand the adverse effect his actions have had on this state, and I will offer my take on them for the reader to either accept or reject. If that is not fair, then so be it.

I have written about 60,000 words of an anticipated 100,000-word manuscript thus far. A couple of other writers have volunteered to contribute chapters, which should add another 20,000 words. I have a self-imposed deadline of July 1—give or take a few days—in which to have the rough draft completed. I also have several very capable editors poring over the chapters as they are completed. Their corrections, deletions, additions and suggestions will be incorporated into the final manuscript which is to be submitted to the publisher by late August.

The publisher originally gave me a publication target date of next Spring but recently moved the anticipated publication date up to January, with an e-book to be released possibly as early as this Fall.

That would coincide nicely with Jindal’s second ghost-written book, scheduled out in September.

There will be one major difference in our books: Mine will be based on his record while the source of his claims of balanced budgets and other wild, unsubstantiated assertions are certain to remain a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (with apologies to Winston Churchill).

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By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

On Monday (June 8, 2015) Salon published an excellent piece by Lamar White about Bobby Jindal and his political machine.  Here is a link to that article:

http://www.salon.com/2015/06/08/capture_the_duggar_base_bobby_jindals_desperate_home_school_hail_mary_is_2016s_strangest_strategy/

Months ago, I joked that Bobby Jindal was not running for President, but rather for Pat Robertson’s job as host of The 700 Club.  Lamar’s piece has made me believe the concept underlying my joke may, in reality, be at the core of Bobby Jindal’s ostensible campaign for President.

The 700 Club takes its name from a Pat Robertson telethon in 1963 to energize and support a fledgling religious broadcasting station via pledges of $10 per month by 700 people. From this humble beginning, an empire emerged.

Though started by Robertson, the first permanent host of The 700 Club was Jim Bakker who, along with his wife Tammy Faye, later created the hugely (albeit temporarily) successful PTL Club. I became fascinated with Jim and Tammy Bakker in the early 1980s. It was absolutely amazing to me that they could rake in enough money through their television “ministry” to support lives of open excess and build the 3rd largest theme park in the United States, Heritage USA. Not only were they able to achieve personal wealth, they put many old line preachers, gospel singers and others to work.

Ultimately, Bakker was the victim of his own greed and corruption, as were his followers.  He did a stint in federal prison on fraud and conspiracy convictions. This followed the exposure of his affair with (or rape of) a church secretary, Jessica Hahn, who later appeared nude in Playboy. But, I digress.

Bakker is out of prison now and he and his new wife host a millennial/survivalist themed televangelism program broadcast on a couple of Christian television networks. They now live on a 600 acre property near Branson and are apparently doing pretty well despite the rumor Bakker still owes millions to the IRS.

A former Baptist minister, Pat Robertson is now more a politician and conservative commentator than televangelist. He clearly makes a good living from The 700 Club and other enterprises by appealing to a loyal group of supporters. He has founded several large organizations, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, the ABC Family Channel and Regents University. He makes money. His employees make money. His viewers get reinforcement for their beliefs.  Though his politics are extreme, he is apparently not engaging in illegal activities like his former protégé’ Bakker. He fought hard for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1988, no doubt broadening his base of support in the process.

Whether he has tanked or not, Bobby Jindal and his handlers have made a lot of money from his supposed Presidential aspirations. He has become phenomenally well-known and is developing a base of devout supporters around the country. Could it be that he and his inner circle are achieving their real goals even as we speak? Governor Jindal has proven, via stunt after stunt, that gaining as much attention as possible is at the forefront of his interests. Timmy Teepell and others have made good money engendering that attention and acting as Jindal’s sycophants.

The type of things we may consider stunts made Jim Bakker a multi-millionaire. He blew it, but, incredibly may be on his way back. Robertson endures and makes radical proclamations regularly. You may remember he implied Katrina could be God’s retribution for America’s abortion policy and was possibly tied in some way to 9/11. His views on Islam and other issues are essentially the same as Jindal’s.

Robertson only needed about $7,000 per month from 700 believers to get his empire going. That wouldn’t cut it today, but if Jindal could get his own 700,000 club going, it would certainly be a good start for him, generating $7 million a month even at the old subscription fee of $10.

If there are approximately 55 million registered Republican voters in the U. S. [sources give varying numbers, the party was in decline in 2014], 700,000 equals slightly more than 1.2% of them. All things considered, it is not unrealistic to expect Jindal could attract a loyal following of that number, if he hasn’t already.

My point is obvious. Was my original joke a joke, or has the real joke always been on us? In other words, have we mistaken a coldly calculated prosperity plan for tomfoolery aimed at genuine Presidential aspirations?

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THEY'RE ALL UNFIT(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Dear Legislators:

“Jindal Vows to Bankrupt State to Preserve Conservative Credentials” (Comment on nola.com)

LEGISLATORS:  What are YOU going to do about that?

The state of Louisiana is facing bankruptcy – this was utterly predictable and almost feels deliberate.  Read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Kline and you will shocked all right, to see that jindal has pulled off an economic coup that has made Louisiana no more than a Third World economy.

I am addressing this to legislators, because YOU are to blame for the coming collapse of state government.  YOU, state representative or senator, put political party, out-of-state organizations and misguided individuals ahead of the people of Louisiana in violation of your oath of office.

You legislators are the only people in the state who have the power to fix the mess you have created.  The foolishness we are seeing during this legislative session shows that many of you are still abdicating any semblance of responsibility for the common good for our citizens.

A majority of you have played along with Jindal’s disastrous fiscal policies for your own selfish reasons.  Just a few of you have stood boldly and courageously in opposition from the beginning of this reign of (t)error.  You have allowed an annual fiscal mess that has created a huge corporate welfare state and left us with crippling cuts to government agencies that serve our citizens.  Every one of you should hang your head in shame for what you have done to the people of the state you were elected to represent.

You chose to allow us to truly suffer the consequences of Jindal’s sociopathic, narcissistic, self-serving ambition.  He is finally about to be honest about running for president, and the ever-absent governor will be completely MIA in the state that is paying his salary.  Just as he did when he took his salary as a congressman while running for governor.  Forgot about that, didn’t you?  Jindal is a serial thief via payroll fraud.

Here are things you can and should do to help make Louisiana a decent place to live, work and raise families:

One: Impeach Jindal.  Pay attention to what the public thinks.  People are ready for Jindal to go and they are not content to wait until January 2016.  Everyone knows he’s stealing his salary and rent on the mansion.  Do what the citizens want.  Get rid of him now.  Impeach him for cause.  There is plenty of it.  There is great public will for drastic action on YOUR part.

Get rid of the tyrant NOW.  He does not need to finish the last few months of his term.  Impeach him now and you will save yourself a lot of trouble at the end of the session, because if you are responsible enough to actually pass provisions to raise needed revenue, Jindal has clearly and unequivocably stated that he will veto them all because of his loyalty to Grover Norquist, not the people of Louisiana.  He has stated that he will not let you raise revenue.  “Revenue neutral” is complete bull.  We need more revenue, not the same amount we have now; that IS the problem.

Criminal grounds? Start with blatant payroll fraud, malfeasance and dereliction of duty.  Public payroll fraud is a felony in Louisiana.  Jindal long ago stopped performing the duties that he was elected to do, but continues to draw his handsome salary and his family still lives in the taxpayer-owned governor’s mansion. He has completely shirked his responsibilities to the state, and his slavish loyalty to Grover Norquist and powerful business interests, and his total lack of care and compassion for Louisiana people have driven us to brink of bankruptcy.  Then there’s the theft of state trust and reserve funds, and sale of properties belonging to We the People.  The list goes on and on…

While you’re at it, get rid of Jindal’s hatchet people.  There is probably some jail time in their futures for malfeasance in office, fraud and criminal actions having to do with ignoring state laws on contracts, procurement, employment, etc.

 

Two: Many of you signed Grover Norquist’s destructive and completely unrealistic no-taxes-ever pledge, and you must now pay the price for your misplaced loyalty.  You might want to google Grover Norquist.  Ultra-conservative Glenn Beck recently revealed that Norquist is widely thought to be a closet Muslim. Norquist’s former business partner is in federal prison for financing Al Queda terrorists.  Norquist is married to a devout Muslim woman thought to have terrorist ties.  Norquist’s real agenda appears to be destruction of our nation from within. You should take time to research him and decide if that is where your loyalties should lie.  You sold us out to a Muslim economic hit man/terrorist.

Renounce your anti-tax pledge to Norquist publically – NOW.

 

Three:  Accept the fact that government should not be the personal piggy bank for corporate interests.  There should be no profit motive in provision of government services.  Privatization requires profit, which is fine when businesses are truly private interests.   Governments abdicate their responsibility to citizens when services are privatized.

If you think the private sector always provides better services than lesser-paid public employees, take a look at the recent revelation about the Blue Cross Blue Shield takeover of the Office of Group Benefits. BCBS has paid millions in fines for poor performance. You did not hear a lot of complaints when OGB staff operated the plan. Ask the patients at the state’s few remaining mental health hospitals if they are getting enough to eat from the private contractor that now feeds them, after replacing the low-paid state employees who worked in those hospitals. After public complaint after complaint, you have still allowed those patients to go hungry because the contractor does not prepare enough food. Shame on you. SHAME ON YOU.

Government services provide for quality of life and public safety.  Today state services in every area are jeopardized, from police and fire safety, water safety, food inspection and public health to libraries, state parks, and highway safety. Medical services for the less fortunate and accessible higher education may be niceties of the past.

Please read Matthew 25:36-40 – that’s The BIBLE, y’all, the book that some of you wanted to make the Louisiana state book (which, apparently, many of you have not bothered to actually read).

Education is a key component that creates a prosperous middle class.  Public education in Louisiana is in jeopardy, from pre-K, K-12, to higher education.  I am disgusted with hearing about “government monopoly schools.”  Public education was established by the earliest Americans to provide opportunity for all, not just the wealthy.  Now there is talk of privatizing our universities along with the K-12 grab.  Those institutions belong to us – We the People of Louisiana – the same as our state parks and historic sites, museums, libraries and other state properties.   Are you actually going to allow the state of Louisiana to close universities, community and technical colleges, or price them out of reach of all but the wealthy? Do you really choose to let our state sink to the level of a Third World country?  (I spend time in such a country every year, and believe me, Louisiana already looks much the same.)

While you have sort of passed some financial relief for higher education, some of us actually realize that it’s not over til the session is over, and some ploys like the SAVE tax credit insanity provides non-existent funding. Plus, everything is open to jindal’s veto.

 

Four: be courageous and get our fiscal house in order:

    • Just do it. Roll back the corporate welfare that makes the business community that takes the profits and runs out of state a larger entitlement group than the poor. Jindal is now complaining about corporate welfare, which is laughable. He practically invented the idea.
  • Immediately cancel ridiculously expensive contracts such as Magellan and the five Bayou Health contracts that steal money by providing little or no services, services that were previously provided by mid-pay range state employees who actually got the work done.
  • Un-privatize the public hospitals, Office of Group Benefits operations, food service in the few remaining mental health hospitals, etc., so the money spent will actually pay for services to people, rather than profit for out-of-state companies. Don’t think you can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again? Look carefully at the history of the Office of Group Benefits and you will see that it has been done before.

 

  • Reinstate reasonable taxes on business and individuals, such as the Stelly tax. The People voted it in, and y’all eliminated Stelly without asking The People if they agreed. We didn’t. Consider that an additional, temporary one-percent income tax on the top one or two percent earners, until our budget house is back in order, may be necessary. (I’m probably in that number, so I have “skin in that game.”) We have to accept the fact that we must pay for the services we need and want. Take a look at the tax bases of the good quality-of–life states, like Minnesota. They levied a small, temporary income tax hike – result: the state is rolling in revenue and business is booming.

Five: re-gain the trust of our citizens by re-defining YOUR loyalties.  Is your loyalty to a delusional sociopath named jindal, to selfish, to self-serving out-of state entities such as ALEC, the greedy Koch Brothers machine and Grover Norquist, or to the people of Louisiana who elected you and whom you are supposed to serve?

A lot hangs in the balance for you personally and for the rest of us.  For you, there is your continued ability to be elected to public office and to maintain the respect of people around you, not to mention the state of your own immortal soul (read The Bible some more and see what the Lord has to say about people to whom much is given, etc.).  You are playing with fire….eternal fire… and I think it is very appropriate to point that out, since so many of you claim to be devout Christians.  Christians who want to legislate your personal religious beliefs into laws affecting everyone of all faiths and no faith, effectively turning our state and nation into a theocracy, in violation of the U.S. Constitution (which you claim to revere).

And now we find that many of you voted in favor of House Concurrent Resolution 2 that would endorse a “Convention of States” seeking to eliminate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that the United States Constitution, federal statutes and treaties are “the supreme law of the land.”  The Supremacy Clause is the bedrock that binds the states together a one nation.  This proposed convention of the states is a far-reaching plan to make radical changes in the federal government that will not benefit ordinary citizens. If that resolution was sold to you as a way to undermine a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, think again.  Pay attention for once, since you have admitted to voting for bills and resolutions because someone told you to, when you have not even read them.  Wake up to what you are doing.  The “convention of states” would begin the descent into anarchy as each state makes its own rules.  No more United States of America.  Welcome to 50 Shades of Pray.

Do the right thing.  Step up to your responsibilities as elected representatives of the people.  Make the right decisions for Louisiana, not a political party, an individual or organization. Get our house in order.

Believe me, we are all watching.

Sincerely,

Earthmother

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By Monique Harden (Special to LouisianaVoice)

Before state lawmakers on the Louisiana House of Representatives Education Committee on May 7 unanimously agreed to pass House Bill 180, which would prohibit the building of a new school on a waste site, an official with the LA Department of Environmental Quality gave a full-throated defense of the department’s astounding decision to do just the opposite.

The LDEQ gave the thumbs up to a plan by the Recovery School District to build a new school on the old Clio Street/Silver City Dump in New Orleans. According to Chance McNeely, an Assistant Secretary at the LDEQ who spoke to the Education Committee, the LDEQ uses “the safest, most stringent standard,” but “didn’t find anything that pointed to a toxic landfill or dump site there.” This conclusion is absurd. Governmental records show that this dump received more than 150 tons of waste on a daily basis and operated from the late 1890s to the late 1930s. According to the technical reports prepared by environmental consulting firms working for the RSD, which the LDEQ purportedly reviewed, the site of this former waste dump remains contaminated to this day. These reports show “unacceptable levels” of toxins at the ground surface down to 15 feet below ground that exceed the risk-based standard for residential use and would “pose a risk to children occupying the site.”

It is more than eye-opening that the LDEQ would turn a blind eye to information showing the existence of the Clio Street/Silver City Dump and revealing present-day soil contamination that can harm human health. The LDEQ lacks credibility in concluding that it is safe to build a school on a waste dump.

When McNeely discouraged the idea of avoiding the health risks at the former waste dump by looking at an alternative school site he raised the ire of Representative Wesley Bishop from New Orleans.  McNeely suggested that “probably the same thing” would be found at the alternative site as was found at the former waste dump.  When Rep. Bishop asked McNeely to explain why, McNeely admitted that he was not familiar with the alternative site.  Showing his frustration with McNeely, Rep. Bishop declared, “You’re not making any sense.”

Perhaps the only “sense” driving the LDEQ’s apparent opposition to House Bill 180 is the pressure of approving the RSD’s plan to build the school on the former waste dump in order for the RSD to collect $69 million dollars from FEMA.  According to McNeely, “FEMA requires that, if you’re gonna spend that money, you gotta confirm that there’s not a contamination that would be a danger.”

 Monique Harden is an attorney and co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, a public interest law firm in New Orleans, LA.

…And for the record, we have, courtesy of Ms. Harden, the transcript of the testimony of Chance McNeely, assistant secretary, Office of Environmental Compliance, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

You may remember Chance McNeely, who moved over from the governor’s office (with a big raise) to become the DEQ Environmental Compliance Officer while simultaneously attending law school. Here are links to some of our earlier posts about Chance:

http://louisianavoice.com/2015/01/13/if-you-think-chance-mcneelys-appointment-to-head-deq-compliance-was-an-insult-just-get-a-handle-on-his-salary/

http://louisianavoice.com/2015/01/12/taking-a-chance-on-chance-or-how-i-stopped-worrying-and-learned-to-love-the-proposed-m6-open-burn-at-camp-minden/

http://louisianavoice.com/2015/01/14/environmental-compliance-head-mcneeley-once-worked-for-gop-rep-luetkemeyer-who-leads-the-way-in-science-denial/

TRANSCRIPT OF STATEMENT ON HOUSE BILL No. 180

by

CHANCE McNEELY, ASSISSTANT SECRETARY

OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE

LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

(We have attempted to edit out numbers that do not belong. If we missed any and you see numbers that look out of place, ignore them; they’re just the line numbers for the official transcript.)

Chance McNeely: “I would just say. If I may just give you a little bit of history that you guys may already be aware of, but I’ll just proceed anyway. Obviously, we had the Industrial Revolution in the last century. And all of that pre-dated any environmental regulations or laws. So in the sixties and seventies, we started environmental regulations. And so, in the time between there, we obviously had contamination that would take place in various locations. This is not unique to Louisiana. This is something that every state deals with. And so, I just, I guess my comment would be that the point of RECAP [Risk Evaluation and Corrective Action Plan] is to put sites back into commerce. And if RECAP says that it’s, if our system shows that it’s safe, we stand by that system. And I think it’s important for y’all to be aware that there are statewide implications for this bill.

Rep. Carmody: Mr. McNeely, you’re with the Department of Environmental Quality. In these situations where – again, I’m not familiar with the areas in New Orleans were talking about here – but these former sites, impacted sites, the school has then come back over at some point and built on top of them. And the [unintelligible] I was just kind of given was that the remediation plan, I guess presented, has gone through DEQ approval process to say that in order to address the concerns regarding the high standards for some of these chemicals to a depth of – whatever it was – three feet, this has to be removed. And then at that point, encapsulation on top of that should create a barrier to prevent the migration of any of these chemicals. Correct?

Chance McNeely: That’s right. I mean, it’s essentially taking three feet of dirt out, 40 putting six feet of dirt in. Well, before you put the six feet of dirt in, you put a layer – like a fabric –so if you ever dig down and hit that, you know to stop. There’ll be six feet of dirt on top of that that’s clean. And then most of the facility, you know, it’s going to be the school built on top of it. So, there’s not, I assume that there, I think there is going to be some grass area, but a lot of it’s going to be covered with the building.

Rep. Carmody: Do all of these qualify as Brownfields sites?

Chance McNeely: Ummm

Rep. Carmody: And the reason I guess I’m asking you that question is that if it’s a Brownfields site, you don’t go all the way to the bottom of that hole until you finished digging out everything you find, is it?

Chance McNeely: Right. And that’s part of RECAP, where they evaluate all the factors. For schools, it’s treated like residential standards. So this is the safest, most stringent standard for remediation that we have. And we stand by it. So does the EPA. We kind of lead the nation in RECAP. We got a great program. And so it’s, again, we do stand by our standards and say that it is safe.

Rep. Carmody: Just to clarify, you’re here for informational purposes only as a representative of the Department of Environmental Quality.

Chance McNeely: That’s correct.

Rep. Patricia Smith: Question I have for you is when you mitigate a particular site do you inform anyone who’s building there what’s there? Are they aware when they first build 60 of what is actually in the ground?

Chance McNeely: I guess the way to explain that – I’ll use the example that we’re talking about. So the Recovery School District is being funded by the feds, FEMA. FEMA requires that, if you’re gonna spend that money, you gotta confirm that there’s not a contamination that would be a danger. And so, RSD does sampling. We have oversight of that. That’s how we got involved in this is that FEMA requires RSD to make sure that the site is okay. And so that’s how the sampling got done and we got involved. Again, we have oversight. We approved all the sampling plans, everything like that. We run it through our RECAP system to determine, you know, the risks. I’ll also point out and I’ll say that, you know, the sampling that came back was consistent with urbanization throughout the, you know, 1900s. We didn’t find anything that pointed to a toxic landfill or dump site there. So, you know, we’re talking about lead. Lead is the primary thing that we found. And we all know there’s lots of sources of lead, you know, that have existed. And you’re gonna pretty much find that in a lot of urban areas.

Rep. Smith: Well, the question I have though is the school opened in 1942. I’m sure that folks knew it was a dump site at that time. 1942 standards compared to 2015 standards ought to be quite different.

Chance McNeely: They are. There were no standards back then.

Rep. Smith: There probably were no standards. You’re absolutely right. Therefore, there ought to be more stringent standards when we’re looking at something that was already there to be able to determine whether or not anything was emitted from it. You got samples. Did you go all the way down to the 15 foot level for any samples that you know of?

Chance McNeely: I believe we did. I believe we went all the way down. It’s either 12 or 15 feet, I believe.

Rep. Smith: But even if you build and you’re looking at only the three foot level, what’s to say that you cannot disturb what’s under the layer that you put in there? There’s nothing to say that. A bulldozer or something can go farther down – just like folks hit water lines, gas lines, you know, that are underground. So, what’s to say that it doesn’t go beyond that?

Chance McNeely: Again, dig down three feet. Put that fabric in. If you ever get to that point, you see it, and you know you’re supposed to stop. But, during construction, we’re talking about constructing on top of six feet of clean, new soil. And so, the reason you need six feet is out of an abundance of caution. You know, if they had any kind of pipe burst or something that it would be in that six feet of barrier without ever having to down 95 to the area that has any contamination.

Rep. Smith: I guess because of the fact that dump sites and waste sites, Brownfields, and all these are mostly in urban, African American communities. That when we begin to build that’s where we’re building. When we begin to build and looking at trying to replace schools that often times they’re not many places to go unless we look for new 100 sites outside of the urban areas where these have been located and that’s an atrocity in itself. We know that.

Chance McNeely: My response to that would be we’re on the same page. The point of a Brownfields program and RECAP is to put contaminated properties back into commerce. We don’t want to have to build schools for the children of New Orleans way 105 outside of town. We want them to be in town. And there’s contamination in town that we address through RECAP.

Rep. Wesley Bishop: Quick question for you. I am familiar with this area. I am familiar with this district. It’s in my district. And the one thing that stands, I think, as a stark testament as to why we should not be doing this is Moton School. Moton School is in my district. Reason why I know is because my mother-in-law is the principal of Moton Elementary School. And when you look at it right now, you drive in my district, that school has sat there abandoned for years for the very same concerns that we’re talking about. You put that same remediation piece in place. You remediate this particular area, it would actually make it good. The one thing no one has been able to answer for me is why in the world do we have this conversation when we talk about our kids. I can’t figure that one out. My understanding and, Representative Bouie, correct me if I’m wrong, this situation came about based upon the Booker T. Washington High School. I’m also saying also that there is a $40 million budget to erect a new Booker T. Washington High School. I understand that there are some alumni, who have some concerns as to whether or not this will slow down the process. And that’s a valid concern because we’re many years beyond Hurricane Katrina and it’s still not built. But I also understand that there is an alternative site that’s present right now that you could build this very school on right now. Only $4 million has been spent to remediate this process. So, basically you eat the $4 million. As an attorney, it makes sense to eat the $4 million. Because if you don’t and you build this school, the number of lawsuits you’re going to face based upon parents [unintelligible] sent their kids into what most folks consider to be harm’s danger would pale in comparison. Rep. Bouie, can you talk a little bit about the alternative site that’s available for the building of this school?

Rep. Bouie: [Discussion of the Derham School property as an alternative site.] 

Chance McNeely: If I may, if it’s the pleasure, if it’s determined that the site has to move, my understanding would be that, you know, FEMA would still require sampling. And I’ll just tell you they’re probably going to find the same thing they found [stops].

Rep. Bishop: But is there reason to believe that a landfill [unintelligible] at the new site? 

Chance McNeely: I’m not familiar with that site.

Rep. Bishop: You’re not making any sense. How do you get to interject that into the argument when you have no reason to believe that that’s the case?

Chance McNeely: Because what we found through sampling at the current site has nothing to do with a landfill. It has to do with is standard urbanization: lead. It’s not, we 140 didn’t find anything that said, “Oh, there was a hazardous landfill here.”

Rep. Bishop: I disagree with you totally, sir.

Chance McNeely: Ok.

Rep. Bishop: I disagree with you. I know you gotta job to do and gotta come and make this argument, but I totally disagree with what you said.

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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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