Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Higher Education’ Category

Anyone who still wonders why Gov. Bobby Jindal trots around the country uttering his venom-laced attacks on Washington in general and the Obama administration in particular should understand something. It’s all about politics; he is simply pandering to what he perceives as his base which is, at best, an illusion.

His foaming at the mouth courtship with his invisible support group is something like playing with an imaginary friend. In Jindal’s case, we have it on pretty good authority that he had two imaginary friends as a child but they would go to the other end of the playground and never let him join them. You will notice he never shows up in any of the lists of potential major GOP presidential candidates. That’s because the Republican Party just doesn’t want to play with him.

We have to give Jindal credit for one thing, however; he backs his rhetoric with action.

In his steadfast resistance to anything Washington, we have seen him:

  • Reject $300 million in federal funding for a Baton Rouge to New Orleans high speed passenger rail connection because he doesn’t want federal control;
  • Pretend to reject $98 million in federal stimulus funds for recovery from the 2008 recession while quietly taking the funds and handing out checks to municipalities during his highly-publicized visits to Protestant churches in north Louisiana;
  • Reject $80 million in federal funding to expand broadband internet service into rural areas of the state, primarily in north Louisiana;
  • Reject $15.7 billion in federal Medicaid expansion funds because he incorrectly claimed it would cost Louisiana taxpayers up to $1.7 billion over 10 years. He provided no figures to back that claim but did defiantly say Obama “won’t bully Louisiana.” Meanwhile, more than 200,000 low-income Louisiana residents are still without medical insurance.
  • Reject the Common Core State Standards Initiative after previously voicing his wholehearted support for the standards, again saying, “We won’t let the federal government take over Louisiana’s education standards.”
  • Prevail upon the legislature to reject an increase in the minimum wage, to reject tightening regulation of payday loan companies, to ban discrimination against gays, and to reject support of equal pay for women—most probably because all such proposals have the ugly thumbprints of Washington all over them.

So, taking into account his polarizing negativity against Washington, it’s pretty easy to see that things might have been different if we’d never had this little demagogue as governor.

But then we got to wondering how Louisiana might have fared down through the years if we had always been saddled with a Jindal on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. We would probably have beaten South Carolina in being the first state to secede from the Union.

But for the sake of simplicity, let’s just go back to Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. That’s pretty fair because U.S. Sen. Huey Long (whom Jindal often seems to be trying to emulate) was about as anti-New Deal then as Jindal is anti-everything federal is today. Moreover, the nation was reeling from the Great Depression, thanks to Wall Street’s greed, just as America was suffering from the Recession of 2008, thanks in large part to Wall Street again gone amok.

Works Progress Administration projects:

  • Big Charity Hospital in New Orleans where many Louisiana physicians received their training for decades (including Congressmen Bill Cassidy and Charles Boustany, Jr.);
  • Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which brought electric power to Louisiana’s most rural farm communities (and without which, to paraphrase the late comic Brother Dave Gardner, they’d all be watching TV by candlelight);
  • State Capitol Annex across Third Street from the State Capitol;
  • More courthouses were constructed under the program from 1936 to 1940 than in any other period in state history. They include courthouses in the parishes of St. Bernard, Natchitoches, Iberia Parish, Caldwell, Cameron, East Carroll, Jackson, Madison, Rapides, St. Landry and Terrebonne.
  • Mumford Stadium, Bradford Hall and Grandison Hall at Southern University;
  • Himes Hall, the faculty club, and the geology building at LSU;
  • Two buildings at what is now the University of Louisiana Monroe, three on the McNeese campus, seven each at Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana Tech, a water tower at Grambling State University, eight additions at Northwestern State University and 12 at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, all of which significantly extended the reach of higher education in the state.
  • Scores of new elementary and high schools (including this writer’s Alma Mater, Ruston High School), as well as high school science labs, gymnasium-auditoriums, home economics cottages, athletic fields, music rooms and vocational education shops;
  • New buildings for the Hansen’s Disease Center at Carville;
  • The Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans;
  • Extensive improvements and updates to the French Market in New Orleans;
  • Expansion of the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans;
  • Paving of 40 miles of roadway on Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City as well as the clearing of 15 miles of bayous and drainage canals and the rehabilitation of 43 wooden bridges on the base;
  • Improvements to the 1,300-acre City Park in New Orleans;
  • The Louisiana State Museum in Shreveport;
  • Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans;
  • The old City Hall in Denham Springs;
  • Construction of the Louisiana State School for the Deaf (now housing an administration building for the Baton Rouge Police Department);
  • Post offices in Hammond, Plaquemine, Arabi; Arcadia, Bunkie, Donaldsonville, Eunice, Haynesville, Jeanerette, Leesville, Oakdale, Rayville, and Monroe;
  • Conversion of a Baton Rouge swamp into the University Lakes around which many LSU professors, former U.S. Congressman Henson Moore and current Congressman Bill Cassidy now reside;
  • Eradication program to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes near the New Orleans lakefront.

Huey Long did everything in his power to throw up roadblocks to FDR. His reasons? He planned to run for President in 1936 and he needed to incite opposition to Roosevelt and Washington in order to build a national political base. In fact, before his death in September of 1935, Long was quite effective as fewer than three dozen PWA projects were fully authorized for the state.

Sound familiar?

Following Long’s death and with his obstructionist policy abandoned by his successors, FDR funneled $80 million into Louisiana for roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems, parks, playgrounds, public housing, library and bookmobile programs and literacy drives. That’s $80 million in 1930s dollars. About what it would take to fund that proposed broadband internet expansion for rural north Louisiana today.

So, let’s ask Jindal to hop into our time machine and travel back to September 1935 where he will run and be elected governor just in time to revive the Kingfish’s anti-Roosevelt rhetoric.

Big Charity Hospital? Who needs it? But wait. Jindal wouldn’t have that facility today to give away in his privatization plan yet to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). And without Big Charity, there probably never would have been similar state hospitals in Houma, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport or Monroe to close or privatize.

All those courthouses? Shoot, just drop them in the Capital Outlay bill and sell some more state bonds. We can always raise the state’s debt ceiling.

As for all those buildings on the university campuses across the state, hasn’t anyone been paying attention? We’re cutting funding for all that. Who needs public colleges anyway? Let the students get a student loan and go to ITI Technical College.

And Ruston High School? We’ll just turn that into a charter and issue vouchers to the white kids—the smart rich ones.

All those New Deal programs created jobs for Louisianians? Well, so what? There probably wouldn’t have been an unemployment problem in the first place if the workers weren’t so greedy back then and would’ve agreed to work for 15 cents an hour. That’s what happens when you raise the minimum wage.

Fast Forward 30 years

And lest we forget, we probably need to include a couple of programs President Lyndon B. Johnson rammed through Congress.

The Civil Rights Bill opened the door of opportunity for African Americans as nothing since the Emancipation Proclamation had done. And of course there was bitter opposition right down to passage—and beyond. There are those, some in elective office, who would repeal the act today, given the opportunity. The irony is that LBJ had opposed every Civil Rights measure in Congress when he was a senator but when he ascended to the presidency upon JFK’s assassination, he told one supporter, “I’m everybody’s president now.”

And, of course, there is the precursor to the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

Of course, that would be that radical Social Security Amendment of 1965 which created Medicare and Medicaid.

There was rabid opposition to Medicare by Republicans and the American Medical Association which insisted there was no need for the federal government to intervene in the relationship between patient and physician. Today, if any politician ever tried to terminate Medicare services, he would have a blue-haired riot on his hands and rightly so.

Medicare now provides medical insurance to 50 million elderly Americans and Medicaid does the same for another 51 million low-income or disabled Americans.

Perhaps someone should ask Republican Congressmen Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge (6th District and a candidate for U.S. Senate against incumbent Mary Landrieu) and John Fleming of Minden (4th District), and Charles Boustany, Jr. (3rd District) each of whom is a physician and each of whom opposes Obamacare, what percentage of their income as practicing physicians walked in the door as Medicare or Medicaid patients?

Then check with Jindal to see how that squares with his opposition to the welfare state and such socialistic practices.

Read Full Post »

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s head cheerleader, the Baton Rouge Business Report, keeps churning out those feel good blurbs about the various surveys that put Louisiana in a good light.

That’s understandable, of course. After all, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister served as Jindal’s campaign treasurer, then as chair of Jindal’s transition team, later as director of Jindal slush fund organization Believe in Louisiana, and finally as treasurer for Jindal’s Stand Up to Washington PAC.

As reward for his loyal services, Jindal appointed McCollister to the LSU Board of Stuporvisors where he promptly proceeded to vote with the remainder of the board in the decision—dictated by Jindal, of course—to fire LSU President John Lombardi, to resist the release of candidates for LSU president—so much for the Fourth Estate standing up for the public’s right to know—and to allow Jindal to give two LSU hospitals to a fellow LSU board member. As an added bonus, Jindal appointed McCollister associate Julio Melara, Business Report President, to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome) Board of Commissioners.

And we won’t even discuss campaign contributions to Jindal from McCollister and Melara.

That should be sufficient assurance of objectivity and even handedness, so why should anyone question all those wonderfully warmed-over success stories about business climates, job growth, economic development, etc.?

So when the Business Report recently ran a story that proclaimed to the world that Thumbstack.com’s third annual Small Business Friendliness Survey ranked Louisiana as fifth in the nation in the all-important overall friendliness with a grade of A+, we were appropriately ecstatic.

But then on June 12, came the report from 24/7 Wall Street that identified the top 10 states in economic growth.

Louisiana was a no-show on that list.

While the U.S. economy grew at a rate of only 1.9 percent, down from the 2013 growth rate of 2.9 percent, the 10 states experienced growth rates of between 3 percent (Nebraska) and 9.7 percent for North Dakota.

http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/06/12/10-states-with-the-fastest-growing-economies/?utm_source=247WallStDailyNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=JUN122014A&utm_campaign=DailyNewsletter

Louisiana? Our economy grew by a whopping 1.3 percent, according to the Associated Press, .6 lower than the national rate.

You would never know that to hear our esteemed presidential candi…er, governor, boast about the great strides our state has taken under his mostly absentee leadership.

But leave it to our friend Stephen Sabludowsky, publisher of the blog Bayou Buzz, to call Jindal out on his misrepresentations with his post, “Louisiana GDP facts: ‘Jindal miracle’ or mirage.’”

http://www.bayoubuzz.com/buzz/item/685147-louisiana-gdp-facts-jindal-miracle-or-mirage

Sabludowsky noted that Jindal told CNBC’s Jim Cramer (appropriately, a former hedge fund manager) that Louisiana is “doing what Washington, D.C. is not doing.” Jindal said, “Our economy is growing 50 percent faster than the national economy.”

On a roll, he continued: “Louisiana’s state GDP has grown by $36 billion since 2008 and it’s growing at nearly twice the rate of our nation’s GDP.”

Sabludowsky, not impressed, noted that economic numbers released by the federal government did not square up with Jindal’s claim.

“Every chance he gets,” he said, “whether on national TV, while campaigning for President or while sharing broiled chicken with the Chamber of Commerce, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal touts the Louisiana economy—as glowing and out performing almost all competition. Some conservative commentators have described the state’s economic ascendency as the ‘Jindal miracle.’”

Conservative commentators. There is your key. Jindal is very careful to spew his rapid-fire statistics—with little or no basis in reality—in interviews held only in the friendliest of environments where they are accepted at face value and are never challenged. You will never—we repeat, never—see him venture into hostile territory where such claims can be vetted.

Not that anyone in the media would ever challenge him. Where are the old-fashioned, cynical reporters who, like Peter Falk’s character Columbo, always asked one more question, never satisfied with hearing what politicians say but who listen instead to what isn’t said? Where are the journalists who challenge authority—like the late David Halberstam who, as a reporter for the New York Times, called out the American generals for lying when they repeatedly insisted we were winning in Vietnam? His audacity resulted in attempts by the U.S. military to demonize him and to have him thrown out of Vietnam and off his war coverage beat—a distinction he bore with honor.

Sadly, those guys just don’t exist anymore. They are all too busy rewriting press releases and never asking probing questions that might lead to real answers.

What reporters practice today is what Glenn Greenwald, author of No Place to Hide, his book about Edward Snowden, calls “an obvious pretense, a conceit of the profession.”

That’s how Jindal became governor: not one reporter asked the questions that needed to be asked when he ran in 2003 or again in 2007. By 2011, it didn’t matter; he was too firmly entrenched.

And that’s precisely how he plans to get elected President if not in 2016, then in 2020 or 2024.

All he has to do is schmooze a few more news executives.

Read Full Post »

1974 Louisiana Constitution-Declaration of Rights

§22. Access to Courts

Section 22. “All courts shall be open, and every person shall have an adequate remedy by due process of law and justice, administered without denial, partiality, or unreasonable delay, for injury to him in his person, property, reputation, or other rights.”

(Special thanks to Tony Guarisco for researching this provision of the State Constitution.)

 

 

This is about yet two more examples of how Gov. Bobby Jindal conveniently manages to look the other way instead of being up front when confronted with issues that most might believe could present a conflict of interest

When Jindal signed SB 469 into law on Friday he not only killed the pending lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) but he also placed in extreme jeopardy the claims by dozens of South Louisiana municipalities and parish governments from the disastrous 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill that killed 11 men and discharged 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, spoiling beaches and killing fish and wildlife.

By now, most people who have followed the bill authored by Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) but inspired by Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) know that big oil poured money and thousands of lobbying man hours into efforts to pass the bill with its accompanying amendment that makes the prohibition against such lawsuits retroactive to ensure that the SLPFA-E effort was thwarted.

Most followers of the legislature and of the lawsuit also know that up to 70 legal scholars, along with Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, strongly advised Jindal to veto the law because of the threat to the pending BP litigation.

Altogether, the 144 current legislators received more than $5 million and Jindal himself received more than $1 million from oil and gas interests. Allain received $30,000 from the oil lobby and Adley an eye-popping $600,000.

So, when BP lobbyists began swarming around the Capitol like blow flies buzzing around a bloated carcass, the assumption was that BP somehow had a stake in the passage of SB 469 and that infamous amendment making the bill retroactive.

John Barry, a former SLFPA-E who was given the Jindal Teague Treatment but who stuck around to pursue the lawsuit, said, “During the last few days of the session, we were very well aware that the BP lobbyists were extraordinarily active. They were all over the place. We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

Russel Honore said it another way, observing wryly that the Exxon flag still flies over the State Capitol.

Blogger Lamar White, Jr. observed that former Gov. Edwin Edwards spent eight years in a federal prison for accepting payments from hopeful casino operators for his assistance in obtaining licenses—all after he left office. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was similarly convicted of using his position to steer business to a family-owned company and taking free vacations meals and cell phones from people attempting to score contracts or incentives from the city.

So what is the difference between what they did and the ton of contributions received by Adley and Jindal? To paraphrase my favorite playwright Billy Wayne Shakespeare, a payoff by any other name smells just as rank.

And while big oil money flowed like liquor at the State Capitol (figuratively of course; it’s illegal to make or accept campaign contributions during the legislative session), what many may not know is that Jindal may have had an ulterior motive when he signed the bill into law against sound legal advice not to do so, thus protecting the interests of big oil over the welfare of Louisiana citizens who have seen frightening erosion of the state’s shoreline and freshwater marshes.

The Washington, D.C., law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is one of the firms that represented BP in negotiating a $4.5 billion settlement that ended criminal charges against the company. Included in that settlement amount was a $1.26 billion criminal fine to be paid over five years.

An associate of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who has defended clients in government audit cases and in several whistleblower cases is one Nikesh Jindal.

He also is assigned to the division handling the BP case.

Nikesh Jindal is the younger brother of Gov. Piyush, aka Bobby Jindal.

Suddenly, John Barry’s words take on a little more significance: “We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

And that’s not the only instance in which Jindal neglected to be completely candid about connections between him and his brother.

In yet another of his increasingly frequent op-ed columns, this one for the Washington Examiner, prolific writer and part time governor Jindal staked out his position of support of for-profit colleges in their battle against the Obama administration.

A 2012 report by the Senate Committee on Health, Labor and Pensions said that between 2008 and 2009, more than a million students attended schools owned by for-profit companies and by 2010, 54 percent of those had left school without a degree or certificate.

The committee also found that associate degree and certificate programs cost an average of four times the cost of degree program at comparable community colleges. Moreover, bachelor’s degree programs at for-profit colleges cost 20 percent more than flagship public universities.

Jindal disputed proposed U.S. Department of Education “gainful employment” rules that would tie federal aid at for-profit and public and private vocational and certificate programs to their success in preparing students for gainful employment.

“The message from this administration couldn’t be clearer,” Jindal wrote in suggesting that the Obama administration policies are tantamount to “redlining educational opportunities” for low-income and minority youths. “If you want to attend an elite professional school you could end up having tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt forgiven by your school and the federal government. But if you’re a struggling African-American single mother relying on a certificate program at a for-profit school or a community college and you like your current education plan—under this administration, you have about as much chance of keeping it as you do your health plan.”

Critics of the for-profit institutions, however, claim that the schools recruit vulnerable students, some of whom do not even possess a high school diploma, charge exorbitant tuition and encourage students to take out huge student loans they will never be able to repay.

Once again, it was what went unsaid that is significant.

Nikesh Jindal, it turns out, has represented the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), in an earlier legal battle with the Obama administration.

Nikesh Jindal “historically has been part of the team representing APSCU in litigation,” said Noah Black, APSCU spokesman, and was listed as one of the attorneys for the association in its successful challenge to a Department of Education rule that colleges must become certified in each state in which they enroll students.

For a man of repeated claims of transparency, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lack of candor is awfully opaque.

Read Full Post »

By Dayne Sherman, guest columnist

Students are graduating from universities across Louisiana this May, and high school students are heading to college campuses this summer and fall. It’s an exciting time of year for students, parents, extended families, professors, and teachers. Nothing could be better.

But we need to be frank. Louisiana colleges and universities have been cut $700 million, 80 % of state funding since 2008. The tuition is increasing at an unsustainable and crippling rate, and many students will be strapped with student loan debt for decades to come.

This was done because Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn’t care about higher education for Louisiana residents and because his minions in the Legislature allowed him to steal from higher education in order to fund patronage from Shreveport to Port Sulphur. In fact, much of this patronage was devised as a way to pay off his cronies—often out of state—and garner future political favors. It doesn’t take an Albert Einstein to figure this out. Just read the newspapers.

The primary avenue to pay off the campaign favors and buy votes is through bloated consulting contracts. They keep Jindal’s as well as legislators’ supporters and campaign contributors happy, happy, happy.

But it’s time to stop the stupidity and fund higher education. We have students to educate and no funding to do so. Higher education has been starved while consulting contracts have been fed like meat hogs headed to market.

The only hope I see on the horizon is HB 142, a bill filed by Jerome “Dee” Richard (No Party-Thibodaux) and championed by Treasurer John Neely Kennedy (R-Madisonville). It calls for state agencies to cut 10 % from their contracting budgets and the $500 million saved to go to fund higher education. It’s a fair and fiscally conservative plan. The bill has sailed through the House, and now faces the big challenge: Gov. Jindal’s handpicked salons on the Senate Finance Committee. The committee meets on Monday, May 19 at 9:30 AM.

I believe passage of this bill is utterly essential to save public higher education in Louisiana.

There have been ongoing foes fighting Louisiana higher education. Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is one example of someone who has done nothing for higher education. How he can pretend that he’s a supporter of the educational institutions in and around his district is a real mystery. It’s time for him to put up or shut up, and HB 142 is the test.

We have a chance to save higher education. Will Donahue and White stand with the people of his district or with Jindal and his cronies? We will know soon enough.

Dayne Sherman resides in Ponchatoula. He is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise and expects the publication of Zion: A Novel in October. His website is daynesherman.com.

Read Full Post »

 

“CMS has no legal basis for this decision.”

—Gov. Bobby Jindal, commenting on the decision by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Friday to refuse to sign off on the administration’s privatization plan for six LSU System hospitals.

 

“How fitting that Jindal’s plan to be gone before his many bombs, some supposedly planted with delayed fuses, may well blow early.”

—A political observer, commenting on the sudden collapse of Jindal’s hospital privatization plan which may have blown a $300 million hole in the state budget scheduled for debate on the House floor next Thursday.

 

“People could die. The sick will get sicker. Our precious hospitals are in turmoil. The state budget is in tatters. Governor Bobby Jindal sits in the midst of this fiscal and healthcare debacle clutching his dreams of the presidency at the taxpayers’ expense.”

—State Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), commenting in a prepared statement on the CMS decision to scuttle Jindal’s hospital privatization plan.

 

Read Full Post »

Not that we told you so, but…..we told you so. Several times.

LouisianaVoice has questioned the wisdom—and legality—of the shaky LSU hospital privatization deals since day one and on Friday, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) notified the state that it had refused to sign off on the administration’s plans to privatize LSU hospitals in New Orleans, Shreveport, Monroe, Houma, Lake Charles and Lafayette.

The decision deals a devastating blow to the administration and the state budget for next fiscal year which begins on July 1.

Even more important, the decision throws into serious doubt the operating budget for higher education for the remaining two months of the current fiscal year.

Only last week, Jindal asked State Treasurer John Kennedy to transfer $40 million from other areas to continue funding higher education because an anticipated $70 million in hospital lease payments had not been made.

Kennedy said Friday he was assured that the money would be repaid as soon as the lease payments were received. “Now, I just don’t know,” Kennedy said. “If that $70 million isn’t forthcoming, we have a problem right now, not next year. I don’t believe the legislators realize this yet. I don’t think they realize they will have to cut another $70 million from somewhere to keep higher education afloat. We have to support higher ed.

“Wow. This catches me flat-footed,” he said. “I didn’t expect a decision this soon.”

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said last week that she was confident that the lease payments would be made but the CMA decision casts a huge shadow over those prospects.

Kennedy added that he believes the legislature will now have to consider his proposal calling for an across the board 10 percent cut in consulting contracts. “That would generate $500 million,” he said.

State Rep. Rogers Pope (R-Denham Springs) said the decision raises the question of “where the state will make up $300 million-plus. You have to wonder how many cans we can keep kicking down the road.

“This is a discouraging development. The budget is scheduled to come to the House floor next Thursday, so there’s no time to find additional money. I just don’t know how to react or how many services we can cut.

“Just last week (Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy) Kliebert assured the Senate there was nothing to worry about and now this…”

Another legislator was even more outspoken in his criticism of the governor.

“Governor Bobby Jindal’s reckless pursuit of using federal Medicaid funds in an ill-conceived scheme to privatize state-run hospitals has backfired and now the people of Louisiana will pay a dear price,” said State Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville) in a prepared statement. “Governor Jindal has written a blank check to sell our charity hospital system, which is ultimately used by Louisiana’s working poor, and today it has bounced.

“People could die. The sick will get sicker. Our precious hospitals are in turmoil. The state budget is in tatters. Governor Bobby Jindal sits in the midst of this fiscal and healthcare debacle clutching his dreams of the presidency at the taxpayers’ expense.

“I, along with many others, predicted this outcome and now the people of Louisiana have been left with the tab.

“The Jindal administration’s announcement of an appeal is a typical, timid, tepid response that will bear no more fruit than the barren tree Jindal planted last year.

“It will take all of us. Now is not the time to fall back on partisan bickering or to cling to ideology in the face of a fiscal and healthcare disaster,” he said.

Part of the problem was most likely the manner in which the administration was attempting to use federal dollars to attract more federal matching dollars to finance Jindal’s privatization plan; the feds just weren’t buying it.

Here is the scheme:  The private hospital pays LSU money to lease the LSU hospital.  That money does not stay with LSU; it ends up (directly or indirectly) being used as match in the Medicaid program.  After matching those lease payments with federal funds, the total, larger amount is paid back to the private partner in the form of a Medicaid payment.   The lease payments supplant the state funds.  However, the legislative fiscal office has already raised concerns about the leases being $39 million short which is  why the Division of Administration has already begun planning on “double” lease payments this year.

For years states have devised schemes to receive additional federal funds while reducing the state contribution for Medicaid.  There is a problem with these schemes, however.  Consider this from a 2009 report by the Congressional Research Office:

“In 1991, Congress passed the Medicaid Voluntary Contribution and Provider-Specific Tax Amendments (P.L. 102-234). This bill grappled with several Medicaid funding mechanisms that were sometimes used to circumvent the state/federal shared responsibility for funding the cost of the Medicaid program. Under these funding methods, states collect funds (through taxes or other means) from providers and pay the money back to those providers as Medicaid payments, while claiming the federal matching share of those payments. States were essentially “borrowing” their required state matching amounts from the providers. Once the state share was netted out, the federal matching funds claimed could be used to raise provider payment rates, to fund other portions of the Medicaid program, or for other non-Medicaid purposes.”

DHH’s scheme included a “borrowing” component that looked similar to the practices this legislation was aimed at preventing.  Medicaid rules do not allow a Medicaid provider (read “hospital” here) to voluntarily donate money to the state when they know they will get this money back plus more (the federal share) as part of an increase in their Medicaid payments.  The federal oversight agency, CMS, had previously expressed concerns to state officials that these lease payments could qualify as non bona fide provider donations.

If CMS determined these are conventional fair market value leases, they would have allowed the payments.  Beyond the basic annual lease payments, the deals included “double lease payments” and other large up front lease payments designed to fix the state’s budget problem raising the specter of non bona fide provider donations.  If these payments were deemed to be non-allowable, the federal government will recoup any federal funds that were paid as match for these state funds.

The privatization deals were done at a cost of $1.1 billion to the state this budget year, much of that ($882 million) expected to come from federal funds under the scenario alluded to above.

But a terse message from CMS brought all those plans crashing down: “To maintain the fiscal integrity of the Medicaid program, CMS is unable to approve the state plan amendment request made by Louisiana.”

Predictably, Jindal, who refused to wait for federal approval before plunging ahead full bore with his sweeping privatization of the LSU hospital system, said, “CMS has no legal basis for this decision.” (At least he didn’t call the decision “wrong-headed,” as he did in 2012 when a state district court ruled his school voucher program unconstitutional.)

Jindal said he will appeal the decision but for the time being, the six hospitals will be operating under financing plans that have been shot down, which should come as no surprise to observers of this administration. Friday’s decision prompted one of the governor’s critics to comment, “Jindal deserves every misfortune that this may bring him. The people of this state, however, don’t deserve this. He used them for his selfish political purposes.” Another said, “It would be karma if this fiasco totally destroyed Jindal’s national dreams.”

The one question still left unanswered is whether attorney Jimmy Faircloth will once again be called on to defend yet another dog of a legal case on behalf of this blundering administration, thus adding to his legal fees which already exceed $1 million.

Read Full Post »

Here’s the political shocker of the year: Gov. Bobby Jindal says that the Republican Party would be better off selecting a governor as its 2016 presidential nominee.

Wow. Who saw that coming?

Jindal might wish to ask former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney how that scenario worked out for him.

Wonder how Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida feel about that little snub?

Better yet, wonder who he had in mind? Gosh, there are so many: Chris Christie of New Jersey, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich and Rick Perry of Texas whom Jindal was quick to endorse a couple of years ago before Perry’s political machine sputtered and died on some lonely back road. Then there are those former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of neighboring Arkansas, and Sarah what’s-her-name up there in Alaska.

Oh, right. We almost forgot because well…he’s just so forgettable, but there’s also Jindal who recently placed about 12th in a 10-person straw poll at that wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

But he’s running. You betcha (sorry, Palin, we couldn’t resist). He is so intent in his as yet unannounced candidacy that he has already drafted his own plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Presidential candidates are usually expected to exhibit voter empathy and to be spellbinding orators who are capable of mesmerizing of voters en masse. John Kennedy comes immediately to mind. So do Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. I mean, after Clinton took two steps toward that audience member in his debate against President Bush the First in 1992 and said, “I feel your pain,” Bush never had a chance. Clinton looked that voter dead in the eye and spoke one-on-one as Bush was checking his watch.

Jindal has all the empathy of Don Rickles, but without the charisma.

As for oratory skills, to borrow a line from a recent Dilbert comic strip, he should be called the plant killer: when he speaks, every plant in the room dies from sheer boredom.

So much for his strong points: let’s discuss his shortcomings.

Jindal believes—is convinced—he is presidential timber. The truth is he has been a dismal failure at running a state for the past six years and he’s already written off the final two as he ramps up his campaign for POTUS.

Yes, we’ve been beset by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav. Yes, we had the BP spill. All of those provided Jindal valuable face time on national TV and still he trails the pack and when you’re not the lead dog in the race, the view never changes.

Because of those catastrophes, the state has been the recipient of billions of federal dollars for recovery. Nine years later, Jindal cronies still hold multi-million contracts (funded by FEMA) to oversee “recovery” that is painfully slow. The state received hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild schools in New Orleans. Construction on many of those schools has yet to commence. The money is there but there are no schools. (Correction: Largely white Catholic schools have received state funding and those facilities are up and running.)

Jindal tried to restructure the state’s retirement system—and failed. Yes, the retirement systems have huge unfunded liabilities but Jindal’s solution was to pull the rug from under hard-working civil servants (who by and large, do make less than their counterparts in the private sector: you can look it up, in the words of Casey Stengel). As an example, one person whom we know was planning to retire after 30 years. At her present salary, if she never gets another raise over the final eight years she plans to work, her retirement would be $39,000 per year.

Under Jindal’s proposed plan, if she retired after 30 years, her retirement would have been $6,000—a $33,000-a-year hit. And state employees do not receive social security.

Never mind that state employees have what in essence is a contract: he was going to ram it down their throats anyway—until the courts told him he was going to do no such thing.

He has gutted higher education and his support of the repeal of the Stelly Plan immediately after taking office has cost the state a minimum of $300 million a year—$1.8 billion during his first six years in office.

He even vetoed a renewal of a 5-cent per pack cigarette tax because he opposed any new taxes (try following that logic). The legislature, after failing to override his veto, was forced to pass a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to make the tax permanent. Voters easily approved the amendment.

Then there was the matter of the Minimum Foundation Program, the funding formula for public schools. Funds were going to be taken from the MFP to fund school vouchers until the courts said uh-uh, you ain’t doing that either.

Jindal’s puppets, the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, fired the school’s president and two outstanding and widely admired doctors—all because they didn’t jump on board Jindal’s and the board’s LSU hospital privatization plan. Then the stuporvisors voted to turn two LSU medical facilities in Shreveport and Monroe over to a foundation run by a member of the stuporvisors—and the member cast a vote on the decision. No conflict of interest there.

Six months after the transition, the Center for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) has yet to approve the transition and if it ultimately does not approve it, there will be gnashing of hands and wringing of teeth in Baton Rouge (That’s right: the administration won’t be able to do that correctly, either) because of the millions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding that the state will not get or will have to repay. Jindal will, of course, label such decision as “wrong-headed,” which is an intellectual term he learned as a Rhodes Scholar.

And from what we hear, his little experiment at privatizing Southeast Louisiana Hospital (SELH) in Mandeville by bringing in Magellan to run the facility isn’t fairing too well, either.

By the way, has anyone seen Jindal at even one of those north Louisiana Protestant churches since his re-election? Didn’t think so.

For some reason, the word repulsive keeps coming to mind as this is being written.

Jindal’s firings and demotions are too many to rehash here but if you want to refresh your memory, go to this link: http://louisianavoice.com/category/teague/

The LSU Board of Stuporvisors, by the way, even attempted to prevent a release of a list of potential candidates for the LSU presidency. One might expect that member Rolf McCollister, a publisher (Baton Rouge Business Report), would stand up for freedom of the press, for freedom of information and for transparency. One would be wrong. He joined the rest of the board to unanimously try to block release. Again, led as usual by legal counsel Jimmy Faircloth who has been paid more than $1 million to defend these dogs (dogs being the name given to terrible, indefensible legal cases), Jindal was shot down in flames by the courts and the Board of Stuporvisors is currently on the hook for some $50,000 in legally mandated penalties for failing to comply with the state’s public records laws.

It would be bad enough if the administration’s legal woes were limited to the cases already mentioned. But there is another that while less costly, is far more embarrassing to Jindal if indeed, he is even capable of embarrassment at this point (which he probably is not because it’s so hard to be humble when you’re right all the time).

In a story we broke more than a year ago, former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control commissioner Murphy Painter refused to knuckle under to Tom Benson and Jindal when Benson’s application for a liquor license for Champions Square was incomplete both times it was submitted. Budweiser even offered an enticement for gaining approval of a large tent and signage it wanted to erect in Champions Square for Saints tailgate parties: a $300,000 “contribution” to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome), whose board is heavily stacked with Jindal campaign contributors.

http://louisianavoice.com/2012/09/04/new-lsu-teaguing-by-%CF%80-yush-may-be-imminent-raymond-lamonica-rumored-on-way-out-as-system-general-counsel/

And:

http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/page/3/

Jindal fired Painter. Because firing him for doing his job might be bad press, more solid grounds were sought and Painter was subsequently arrested for sexual harassment of a female employee and of using a state computer database to look up personal information on people not tied to any criminal investigation (something his successor Troy Hebert ordered done on LouisianaVoice Publisher Tom Aswell).

The female employee recanted but Painter nevertheless was put on trial and once more the Jindalites were embarrassed when Painter was acquitted on all 29 counts. Unanimously.

But wait. When a public official is tried—and acquitted—for offenses allegedly committed during the scope of his duties (the Latin phrase is “in copum official actuum”) then Louisiana law permits that official to be reimbursed for legal expenses.

In this case, Jindal’s attempt to throw a state official under the bus for the benefit of a major campaign donor (Benson and various family members), will wind up costing the state $474,000 for Painter’s legal fees and expenses, plus any outstanding bills for which he has yet to be invoiced.

So, after all is said and done, Jindal still believes he is qualified for the highest office in the land. He is convinced he should be elevated to the most powerful position in the world. If he has his way, it won’t be an inauguration; it’ll be a coronation.

So intoxicated by the very thought of occupying the White House is he that he has presumed to author a 26-page white paper that not only critiques Obamacare but apparently details his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Could that qualify as another exorcism on his part?

His epiphany, however, appears to be more akin to the Goldfinch that regurgitates food for its young nestlings than anything really new; it’s just a rehash of old ideas, it turns out.

During his entire administration—and even when he served as Gov. Mike Foster’s Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals—he devoted every waking moment to cutting Medicaid and depriving Louisiana’s poor citizens of health care. Even as head of DHH, according to campaign ads aired on the eve of the 2003 gubernatorial election, he made a decision which proved fatal to a Medicaid patient. That one campaign ad was aired so close to the election date that he was unable to respond and it no doubt contributed to his losing the election to then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco but he won four years later.

Nevertheless, his sudden interest in national health care prompts the obvious question: where the hell has he been for six years?

Not that we would for a moment believe that his newfound concern for healthcare is for political expedience but he apparently isn’t stopping there as he sets out to save the nation.

“This (health care plan) is the first in a series of policies I will offer through America Next (his newly established web page he expects to catapult him into the White House) over the course of this year,” he said.

We can hardly wait.

 

Read Full Post »

3b80822c181a0cbcf5ba0d06dbd9c51e[1]

Could Bobby Jindal possibly embarrass himself any more than he did on Monday?

Could he possibly have revealed himself any more of a calloused, uncaring hypocrite than he did on Monday?

Jindal’s outburst upon exiting a meeting between the nation’s governors and President Barack Obama Monday was a petulant display of immaturity that only served to underscore his disgraceful scorn for Louisiana’s working poor in favor of pandering to the mega-rich Koch brothers.

His shameless promotion of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project coupled with his criticism of Obama’s push for a minimum wage increase comes on the heels of word that Jindal is literally stealing from the blind in drawing down more than half of a trust fund established to assist blind vendors in state buildings to purchase equipment, to pay for repairs and to pay medical bills. http://theadvocate.com/news/8440065-123/blind-vendors-jindals-office-spar

That trust fund has shrunk from $1.6 million to about $700,000, apparently because of yet another lawsuit the administration finds itself embroiled in over the delivery of food services at Fort Polk in Leesville that has sucked up $365,000 in legal fees, of which the state is responsible for 21 percent, or $76,650.

(I worked for the Office of Risk Management for 20 years and $365,000 in legal fees is not unreasonable for a major lawsuit that involves significant injuries or death where liability is in question. But $365,000 in attorney bills in a lawsuit over who gets to run the cafeteria, a commissary and a grocery store would seem to be a tad high—even for the law firm Shows, Cali, Berthelot and Walsh, which is representing the state under a $500,000 contract with the Louisiana Workforce Commission.)

Rubbing salt into the wounds is the fact that the Blind Vendors Committee, which is supposed to have a say in policy decisions, has been left out of the loop over the Fort Polk controversy.

Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, justified the hiring of private attorneys to defend the litigation by saying his office’s staff attorneys are too busy to handle the contract lawsuit.

That brings up two questions:

  • Busy doing what?
  • And isn’t this the same administration that pitched a hissy fit when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East contracted with a private attorney to seek damages from 97 oil companies for destroying the Louisiana wetlands?

But back to the boy blunder. Jindal turns his back on a minimum wage increase for the working poor to stand outside the White House to chat up the Keystone pipeline which would have the potential of generating $100 billion in profit for Charles and David Koch?

Today’s (Wednesday) Baton Rouge Advocate ran this editorial cartoon that is certain to become a classic in that it symbolizes the defining moment of the Jindal administration:

http://theadvocate.com/multimedia/walthandelsman/8477684-123/walt-handelsman-for-feb-26

Jindal said of Obama’s push for an increase in the minimum wage that the president “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” and that Obama’s economy “is now the minimum wage economy. I think we can do better than that.” And by “better,” he was referring to the Keystone pipeline which he said Obama would approve if he were “serious about growing the economy.”

Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy almost pushed Jindal aside in his eagerness to take the microphone to say, “Wait a second. Until a few moments ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road. So let me just say that we don’t all agree that moving Canadian oil through the United States is necessarily the best thing for the United States economy.” He said Jindal’s “white flag” comment was the most partisan of the weekend conference and that many governors, unlike Jindal, support an increase in the minimum wage.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, also a Democrat, was a bit blunter, calling Jindal a “cheap shot artist” as he walked off the White House grounds.

Jindal, of course, wants to be president so badly that he is perfectly willing to sell his soul to the Koch brothers and their organizations Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the apparent hope that some of their AFP money might find its way into his campaign coffers.

AFP is the same super PAC that recently hired professional actors to pose as Louisiana citizens claiming that Obamacare is hurting their families. The merits of lack thereof of Obamacare aside, this is politics at its very sleaziest and our governor is in bed with them.

But this is perfectly in keeping with his character as governor. He has attempted to rob state employees of their retirement benefits. He has attempted to destroy public education with a full frontal attack on teachers. His administration has handed out huge no-bid contracts to consultants as if they were beads at a Mardi Gras parade. He has handed over the state’s charity hospital system to private concerns, including two facilities that went to a member of his LSU Board of Stuporvisors. He has run roughshod over higher education. He has fired appointees and demoted legislators who dared think for themselves. He has refused to expand Medicaid despite living in a state with one of the highest number of citizens lacking medical insurance. He has crisscrossed the country making silly speeches designed only to promote his presidential ambitions by keeping his name before the public. He has written countless op-ed pieces and appeared on network TV news shows for the same purpose.

And still, whenever the pundits start listing the potential Republican presidential contenders for 2016, he name never appears as a blip on their radar. Even Sarah Palin’s name pops up now and then but never Jindal’s.

Even readers of his favorite political blog, The Hayride, which among other things 1), recently featured an infomercial touting a sure-fire cancer cure and 2), got taken in by a hoax video depicting an eagle swooping down and trying to grab an infant in a park, seem to hold Jindal in low regard. A couple of weeks ago The Hayride conducted its own poll of potential Republican candidates for president in 2016.

Here are their results:

  • Sen. Ted Cruz: 39.9 percent;
  • Sen. Rand Paul: 20.7 percent;
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: 10.1 percent;
  • Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: 5.8 percent;
  • Other/Undecided: 24.9 percent.

That’s it. No Jindal. And this from a decidedly pro-Jindal Louisiana political blog. We can only assume he may have shown up somewhere among the 24.9 percent undecided. But this much we do know: he was beaten by Sarah Palin.

At this point, we don’t need a poll to tell us that Jindal would be far better suited as the auctioneer in that GEICO commercial or as the disclaimer voice at the end of those pharmaceutical ads that tell us how we could all die from side effects of the drug that’s being advertised to help with our medical malady—or perhaps even better as the really rapid fire voice that absolutely no one on earth can understand at the end of those automobile commercials.

He has, after all, been auditioning for the part for six years now.

Read Full Post »

“It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that public officials and employees perform the public business in a manner which serves to promote and maintain in the general citizenry a high level of confidence and trust in public officials, public employees, and governmental decisions. The attainment of this end is impaired when a public official or employee holds two or more public offices or public jobs which by their particular nature conflict with the duties and interests of each other. The attainment of a high level of confidence and trust by the general citizenry in public officials, employees, and governmental decisions is further impaired by the excessive accumulation of governmental power which may result from public officials or employees holding two or more public offices or public jobs.”* (Emphasis added.)

*[Louisiana R.S. 42:61 Part III. Dual Officeholding and Dual Employment]

“Except as otherwise provided by the Louisiana constitution, no person holding office or employment in one branch of the state government shall at the same time hold another office or employment in any other branch of the state government.”**

**[Louisiana R.S. 42:63(B) Prohibitions]

“The governor or his designee, when serving as a member of a state agency, commission, or other state entity in accordance with a provision of the constitution, laws, resolutions, or executive order of this state.”***

***[Louisiana R.S. 42:63(F. Exemptions)]

So there you have it. Scott Angelle, former Secretary of Natural Resources under Gov. Bobby Jindal who resigned when the heat got a little too intense over the issue of the ever-expanding Bayou Corne sinkhole in Assumption Parish to run for the Public Service Commission in hopes of becoming the fifth PSC member to use that office as a springboard to the governor’s office is able to serve concurrently as a member of the LSU Board of Stuporvisors by virtue of a generous loophole in the state law which allows Jindal to consolidate his power even more.

Why else would he leave a $129,000-a-year post for one that pays about a third of that—$45,000—other than the mounting pressure of the Bayou Corne sinkhole on his office?

Angelle was elected on Nov. 7, 2012 to succeed Jimmy Fields in representing the 3rd Congressional District. Exactly three months earlier, on Aug. 7, 2012, Jindal appointed Angelle to the LSU Board. If voters expected him to relinquish his LSU Board seat after joining the PSC, they were sadly mistaken.

Legally, he is fully within his rights; state law clearly makes exceptions for the simultaneous holding of part-time elective and appointive positions, a full-time elective and a part-time appointive or vice-versa in different agencies so long as they do not conflict.

In this case, both the LSU Board of Stuporvisors and the Public Service Commission offices are considered part time.

But apparently, that one obscure disclaimer about “the excessive accumulation of governmental power which may result from public officials or employees holding two or more public offices or public jobs” means little to this administration.

Jindal and Angelle can always claim (correctly) that the two part time positions he holds in state government do not conflict with each other. Even by employing the greatest scenario stretch imaginable, it is impossible to see an occasion where the two positions could conflict.

And Jindal and Angelle can always claim (again, correctly) that they are in full compliance with the dual officeholding/dual employment law. No one is arguing that point. The law, like the state’s ethics laws, is full of loopholes and exemptions.

But does that make it right? Not, in our opinion, when Jindal’s actions are compared to his self-serving utterances.

In the spirit of Jindal’s oft-expressed ad nauseam claim (in speeches in other states but never in Louisiana) of presiding over the most ethical administration in Louisiana history and of having the most transparent and accountable administration ever, one might think he would be loath to skirt the spirit of the law just for the sake of building onto his power base. One might even think he would go to great lengths to make sure there could be no questions as to his motives or his political ambitions. One might think he would insist that his administration be above reproach.

One would be wrong on all three counts.

Read Full Post »

When they were competing for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, George Bush referred to Ronald Reagan’s economic platform as “voodoo economics.” When he lost to the Gipper and was named as Reagan’s running mate, Bush called himself a convert.

Well, we at LouisianaVoice are far from converted and the first wave of savings for state government rolled out by Alvarez and Marsal (A&M) can only be called doo-doo economics. In fact, the laundry list of so-called “savings” waved under the noses of the media by Minister of Propaganda Kristy Nichols leaves us even more skeptical of the now $5 million A&M contract than before.

That’s right. A&M has done such a wonderful job that its contract has been amended from the original $4.2 million to $5 million.

And Nichols’ dog and pony show is not only a clumsy effort to make an ill-advised contract look attractive, it’s downright insulting to taxpayers’ intelligence. It’s also an embarrassing admission that the Jindal team simply is not up to the task of running the state.

When she was caught “misspeaking” when she told legislators that the contract guaranteed a $500 million savings in four months—the $500 million was mentioned in the firm’s cover letter but not in the contract—she said the contract would be amended to say that. Well, apparently that little correction cost an additional $800,000. That wasn’t the way we interpreted “amended.”

Let’s face it: if she truly “misspoke” in proclaiming the contract guaranteed a $500 million savings, she should never have been given the responsibility of holding the state’s purse strings; she’s utterly and completely unqualified to hold her job. If, on the other hand, she simply lied to legislators, she should be summarily fired. What’s next, blocking the access ramp to the Sunshine Bridge so Troy Landry can’t get to Pierre Parte?

Compared to this administration, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is an unimaginative moron when it comes to creative ways to fool some of the people even some of the time.

In releasing the list, Nichols bubbled that the contract has already paid for itself in its first month in finding more than $4 million in savings. But, realistically speaking, we should expect nothing else from this administration. Gov. Bobby Jindal is so adept at misdirection, that should his presidential bid fall short, he can fall back on a second career as a stage magician. Let’s compare the “news” releases on the governor’s web page against the facts: http://www.gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=home&navID=3&cpID=0&catID=2

  • Guv: “Louisiana marks sixth consecutive year of population in-migration.”
  • Fact: Our friend Elliott Stonecipher provided figures from the U.S. Census Bureau that show the state’s out-migration from July 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013 resulted in a loss of 2,492 people. If we have had, as Jindal insists, six straight years of gains, how is it that the state has gone from eight congressional districts to seven and more recently, to six congressional districts?
  • Guv: “Governor Jindal announces funding hike for higher education and new workforce incentive fund.”
  • Fact: While Jindal trumpets a $141.5 million funding increase for higher ed, Bob Mann correctly points out that $88 million of that is in the form of increased tuition. “Jindal will generously allow students and their parents to pay more to attend college and will magnanimously permit those schools to keep the money,” Mann said. http://bobmannblog.com/
  • Guv: Everything in Louisiana is either great or on the upswing (from various news releases).
  • Fact: Just examine the contents of this link. http://710keel.com/louisiana-and-arkansas-among-worst-states-in-america/

So you see the trend here and it’s certainly no surprise that the Kristy Nichols “fact sheet” more closely resembles bull sheet. It seems, from the calculations provided, that Louisiana may have already joined the states of Colorado and Washington in legalizing pot. Somebody in charge seems to be smoking something.

The first month’s A&M submissions and the projected savings and our observations (in parentheses) include:

  • Electronic visit verification of at-home visits—$500,000. (First of all, what agency is this for? Second, how is this “savings” quantified? Just tossing figures out there doesn’t cut it.);
  • Curtail unnecessary spending on high cost pharmaceuticals through case management—$154,000. (Where is the Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) Kathy Kliebert? Shouldn’t she have been doing this already?);
  • Cut duplication in health care treatment through elimination of preprocessing claims—$750,000. (See previous if A&M is directing this at DHH. If it’s the Office of Group Benefits, more on that momentarily.);
  • New rate structure for patients requiring less attention than acute care but more than nursing home patients—$300,000. (Translation: cut medical benefits to the poor.);
  • Holding pediatric day care facility owners and operators accountable for management—$154,000. (You mean we weren’t doing that already either? And please explain how this constitutes a savings.);
  • Increasing occupancy bed rates—$2.5 million. (Say what? First of all, bed rates for what facilities? Second, we thought A&M was looking for savings, not increased revenue. Doesn’t that constitute a tax increase? And isn’t Jindal opposed to tax increases, even renewal of cigarette taxes? No, wait, this would be like the tuition increases, wouldn’t it? Not a tax increase, a fee increase. Different, right? Right. Got it.

We’re guessing the pea is under shell number two.

As the finale of her show and tell, Nichols proclaimed that A&M will work with the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) to find ways to make the agency more efficient.

Way to go, guys. You elbow your way in to take over what was very possibly the most efficient, well-run agency in the state to set up a revolving door of CEOs, a disappearing reserve fund balance and for the first time in many years, delays in paying claims. So now you bring in A&M to make things better—the same A&M that said the state should fire 7,500 New Orleans public school teachers following Hurricane Katrina. The state did, the teachers sued and the teachers won and now the state owes $1.5 billion as a result.

We took the four-year $5 million contract, subtracted 464 days for weekends and holidays and came up with a cost of something slightly north of $63,600 per day for A&M’s contract. At that rate, they better not be taking coffee and lunch breaks.

In unveiling his FY15 budget last week, Jindal released a nifty little PowerPoint presentation that showed the number of authorized positions in state government that had been cut during FY14. Not all the cuts resulted in layoffs, of course, because some positions that were eliminated were already vacant and there were also retirements that were not filled.

The figures show that 10,088 positions have been eliminated during the current fiscal year. Of that number 946 were in DHH, 5,998 in the Health Care Services Division, and another 2,209 were in higher education.

But wait. That same PowerPoint shows that the Executive Department (that would be the governor’s office) added 60 positions. Wait. What? Added 60 positions? So much for Jindal’s demand of state employees to do more with less.

Civil Service records show that within the Division of Administration (DOA) alone, there are 64 positions that pay $100,000 or more—a total of more than $6.8 million. Nine more, including Jindal, who work in the governor’s office, earn in excess of $100,000 per year for a total of another $1.3 million. The two highest paid are Chief of Staff Paul Rainwater ($204,400) and Ray Stockstill, listed as Director for Planning and Budget ($180,000).

Stockstill previously worked in DOA as State Director for Planning and Budget before being named Assistant Commissioner in February of 2010. He retired from that $180,000 position, effective Christmas Day of 2010 and returned to his previous position as a re-hire two days later, thus allowing him to draw retirement in addition to the $180,000 he is being paid.

Those lofty numbers do not include other employees listed in the governor’s office but who work in such areas as the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) or the Office of Financial Institutions.

So, in the spirit of economy, here’s a rock-solid suggestion that is certain to save the state a boatload of money:

Bring the A&M suits into the governor’s office and DOA, give them a mandate to cut 50 percent of that $8.1 million—not necessarily layoffs but just tell those 73 people, including the governor, to do more with less—less salary, that is. Let those administrators who are so eager to throw the rank and file employees to the curb learn firsthand what sacrifice is all about. We’re certain that with the teeming civic spirit that oozes from the fourth floor of the State Capitol, there would be unanimous consent.

That, Ms. Nichols, really would make the A&M contract pay for itself.

Now just sit back and hold your breath until that happens.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,438 other followers