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Archive for the ‘OGB, Office of Group Benefits’ Category

One might think the Jindal administration and the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) might have learned something from the Bruce Greenstein fiasco over at the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH).

Greenstein, you will remember, was the DHH secretary when that $280 million contract was awarded by his agency to his former employer, CNSI.

That scenario could be repeated at OGB.

Even though Greenstein insisted he had established a “firewall” between himself and CNSI, it was subsequently revealed that Greenstein had hundreds of email and text message exchanges with his old bosses during the contract selection process.

That eventually led to Greenstein’s forced resignation and criminal indictment and a civil suit by CNSI the entire messy episodes are slowly making their way through the Baton Rouge District Court system.

Which brings us to OGB and its $35 million-a-year contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBS) to administer OGB’s Preferred Provider Organization—a task that apparently proved somewhat daunting to BCBS during the first year of its contract, costing the contractor more than $3.1 million in performance penalties.

One of five contracts with the state totaling $1.2 billion, that three-year contract will end on Jan. 1, and OGB is currently accepting proposals for a new three-year contract.

OGB issued its request for proposals (RFP) on March 13, giving an April 20 deadline for proposals but that deadline was extended to April 30 in an addendum issued on Wednesday (April 22). OGB RFP

LouisianaVoice, however, has learned that OGB Administrator Elise Cazes has been put in charge of the evaluation committee which will make recommendations on awarding a winner of the new contract.

The problem? Cazes was appointed Group Benefits Administrator on June 23, 2014.

Cazes was previously employed by BCBS of Louisiana, raising the possibility of a conflict of interests. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/26/ogb-laying-of-24-more-blow-softened-when-ceo-assures-affected-employees-losing-their-jobs-not-like-losing-a-child/

She earns $106,000 per year in her current position.

Not only does she head up the evaluation committee, but she also was given the responsibility of naming other members of the committee. To date, the name of only one other evaluation committee member, OGB Interim Deputy Director Bill Guerra, has been revealed.

At the same time, LouisianaVoice has learned that BCBS in 2013 was fined more than $3.1 million for performance deficiencies in connection with its contract with OGB. BLUE CROSS PENALTIES

BCBS was paid slightly more than $32.2 million to administer the PPO plan for calendar year 2013, the first year of its current contract.

Under terms of its contract with OGB, BCBS could be fined up to $9.7 million for failure to meet a variety of standards. Those include:

  • General Standards (10 percent of total medical administrative fees): $3.52 million;
  • Data Submission Standards: $10,000 per day, or a maximum of $20,000;
  • Mental Health & Substance Abuse (MH&SA) Standards (17.5 percent of total medical administrative fees): $6.2 million.

The actual penalties imposed for 2013, according to OGB’s own report, and the breakdown included:

  • Average speed to answer phones (39 seconds against an industry standard of less than three seconds): $352,325;
  • Claims Accuracy: $352,325
  • Membership Identification Cards Timeliness: $352,325;
  • Data Submission Timeliness: $20,000 (the maximum amount allowed);
  • MH&SA Appeals: $528,487;
  • MH&SA Ambulatory Follow-Up: $528,487;
  • MH&SA Medical Integration: $528,487;
  • MH&SA Member Satisfaction Survey Score: $528,487

TOTAL: $3.19 million.

In explaining the deficiency report, OGB noted that the contract between BCBS and OGB “contains 26 performance goals (called service level agreements, or SLAs) related to customer service and claims processing. During 2013 Blue Cross experienced challenges in meeting a handful of these goals.”

The report indicated that “all issues” had been resolved and that OGB and BCBS were “fully prepared for excellent performance during the 2014 calendar year.”

But LouisianaVoice recently received the following email from a retiree which would seem to indicate otherwise:

“Here’s a laugh; Look at the insurance health cards my wife and I received thus far:

  • Received 3/6/15:  deductible—$300
  • Received 03/09/15: insured deductible—$600
  • Received (date unknown): insured deductible—$600
  • Received 03/20/15: insured deductible—$1800
  • Received 03/20/15: spouse deductible—$600
  • Received 03/27/15: spouse deductible—$600
  • Received 03/27/15: insured deductible—$1800
  • Received 04/04/15: insured deductible—$600. 

“Do I get to pick our deductible from these cards?  You can tell that BCBSLA and OGB are on top of this matter, right? I plan to make a personal visit to the OGB office probably next week and show them this trash and find out what our deductible(s) really are. Do you think they know? I will ask while I am (at the OGB office) for the real executive director at OGB (to) please stand up.

“Our online monthly premium is a different figure from the letter received in the mail today from OGB. I am ready for someone to figure out what’s going on, and do something logically and correctly.  Health insurance is a serious matter for people and they are playing with us. Everything needs to be corrected and cleaned up for all state employees (retirees and actives).

“OGB use to be correct on these technical matters and they had in the past straightened out BCBSLA for me several times on what was to be paid, etc. Now OGB has gone crazy too! I guess it’s from all the new executives at the top.” 

 

 

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The absentee Jindal administration, already under fire for its fiscal train wreck that has legislators scrambling in attempts to cover a projected $1.6 billion budgetary shortfall, had a grenade dropped into its lap on Wednesday in the form of a LAWSUIT against the administration and the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) over the method in which OGB attempted to implement adverse changes in benefits and premiums for 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents.

Baton Rouge attorney J. Arthur Smith filed the petition for declaratory and injunctive relief in Baton Rouge District Court on behalf of six plaintiffs who are either current state employees or state retirees.

At issue is the way that OGB attempted to increase premiums and reduce benefits for members of OGB last August without complying with the state’s Administrative Procedures Act (APA) which requires promulgation (a formal declaration of intent and public hearings) of any rule changes.

Listed as plaintiffs are Marilee Cash and Aileen Hendricks of East Baton Rouge Parish, Nancy Dickie and Debra Thornton of Lafourche Parish, Rebecca McCarter of Ascension Parish and Dayne Sherman of Tangipahoa Parish. Named as defendants were the State of Louisiana, the Office of the Governor, the Division of Administration (DOA), and OGB.

They claim to be members of an organization called Louisiana Voices of Employees and Retirees for Insurance Truth and Equity, (LA VERITE). They say they chose the name because La verite is French for Truth.

The petition tracks the record of the Jindal administration and chronicles the manner in which the plaintiffs claim that the administration, abetted by the legislature, frittered away a surplus of nearly $2 million at the time Jindal took office, repeatedly used one-time revenue to cover recurring expenses, repealed the popular Stelly tax plan, passed numerous business tax breaks totaling some $367 million, approved $20 million in private school tuition and home schooling tax credits and scrapped the sales tax that businesses previously paid on utility bills.

The rollback of the Stelly plan took place despite warnings from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) that the move would cost the state more than $1.8 billion in lost revenue over a three-year period from fiscal year 2010 through fiscal year 2012, the petition says.

The lawsuit says that the repeal of the Stelly plan provided a “substantial tax savings for upper income Louisiana” and accounted for about 75 percent of the state’s budget shortfall during those three years. “This does not take into account the billions of dollars the State of Louisiana hands out in business tax exemptions and incentives ever year that have gone unexamined by lawmakers to determine if they serve legitimate public objectives or are simply wasteful luxuries that the state can no longer afford,” it says.

Citing further examples of what it describes as fiscal mismanagement, the petition notes that from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, the administration spent $2.4 billion in private consulting contracts. The following year, it said, that amount increased to $4 billion. The suit cited the Office of Contractual Review’s annual reports for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 as its source.

Plaintiffs, in their petition, say that the administration announced in January of 2011 its intention to explore the privatization of OGB’s Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) even though a Legislative Auditor’s report predicted that premiums would increase because of marketing costs for a private provider, the necessity of a private provider’s turning a profit, the requirement that private health insurance companies pay premium taxes and the requirement that private companies must purchase reinsurance.

Despite that, the lawsuit says, then-Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater promised that in the event of privatization, benefits would remain the same and premiums would not be increased.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana won the contract to administer the PPO and the new plan went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. That same year, the administration actually reduced rates by 7.11 percent and the next year another reduction of 1.77 percent went into effect.

“While this saved money for the employees,” the plaintiffs said, “it reduced the state’s required premium (matching) payments by about twice as much, thereby reducing the state’s obligation to pay into the system even though medical expenses were increasing by about 6 percent. The rate reductions, while saving the state money it could then apply to the budgetary shortfall, it meant that OGB could no longer cover expenses from current revenue and had to dip into its reserve fund, which was about $500 million when BCBS took over operations.

OGB has been spending millions per month more than it has been taking in in premiums and the Legislative Fiscal Office has said there is a risk that the reserve fund balance could be zero by the end of the current fiscal year (June 30).

“Gov. Jindal adamantly opposed every attempt on the part of legislators to deal with the financial crisis through tax increases,” the petition says, and he “capitalized on the financial crisis of the state to advance an ideological agenda that called into question the rationale for government to perform basic services on a wide range of issues.”

In listing three causes of action, Smith said the state and OGB violated the state’s APA by attempting to make “substantial unilateral modifications to both benefits and costs under the OGB health plan.”

Some of the changes included:

  • Significantly increasing out-of-pocket maximums for all health plan options;
  • Increasing deductibles for all health plan options;
  • Increased co-pays 100 percent for plans with co-pays;
  • Increasing the out-of-pocket maximums for prescription drug benefits by $300 (from $1,200 to $1,500, a 20 percent increase);
  • Eliminating out-of-network benefits for some plan options;
  • Requiring prior authorizations for certain medical procedures;
  • Removing all vision coverage from health plan options.

The plaintiffs point out that on Sept. 30, 2014, only seven days after an attorney general’s opinion said OGB had violated the APA with its unilateral modifications of benefits, OGB issued a press release “stating its intention to publish an emergency rule reinstating the legally insufficient Aug. 1 changes.”

OGB’s emergency rule, the petition says, “was an apparent effort to retroactively ‘cure’ the illegalities found by the Attorney General in his Sept. 23 opinion. Moreover, the fact (that) the changes would not become effective until March 1, 2015, belies the claim that (there) was an ‘emergency’ which necessitated less than full compliance with the APA.”

OGB did finally comply with the APA by conducting a public hearing on Dec. 29, 2014, in the middle of the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season and after the enrollment period had already been closed, causing the plaintiffs to call the hearing a “sham.”

“With all of the proposed changes, including significant changes (made) during the enrollment period, the haste in which they were handled, and the timing of the Dec. 29, 2014, public hearing, it was very difficult for state employees and retirees to intelligently evaluate their options under these proposed plans and (to) make informed choices,” the plaintiffs said.

The petition also claims the state violated due process and contract clauses.

It claims that state agencies can only change promulgated regulations by the process of the promulgation of a new rule or regulation and that if a change is not properly promulgated in accordance with the APA, “it is not a legally effective pronouncement by the agency (not a law), and therefore, none of the abortive attempts in August, September, October and thereafter should be viewed as having changed the existing law.

“Since the contracts clauses prohibit the state from passing a ‘law’ that retroactively impairs the obligations of contract, OGB can only legally change the benefits program when it adopts through proper procedure and final rule to that effect, and that final rule cannot constitutionally be given retroactive effect.”

The petition is seeking declaratory judgments that:

  • OGB’s health care plans are in violation of the Louisiana APA;
  • Defendants have violated the Constitution of the State of Louisiana;
  • OGB has violated its fiduciary duties as prudent administrators.

It also seeks injunctive relief enjoining the applications of the OGB health care plan modifications.

The lawsuit was assigned to 19th JDC Judge Janice Clark.

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U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle could well be running for governor of Texas instead of Louisiana, if campaign contributions through March 31 are any indication.

That’s because between the two, there have been 69 contributions from donors in the Lone Star State totaling more than half a million dollars, according to campaign finance reports on file with the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

In fact, it might even appear to some that there is a disproportionate amount of out-of-state money that has already been invested in the four major candidates for governor—and the Oct. 24 primary election is still six months away.

Besides the 317 out-of-state contributors who have combined to pour $900,000 into the four campaigns, 954 special interests (corporations, political action committees, etc.) have funneled more than $3 million of the total $6.1 million contributed to the campaigns of Republicans Vitter, Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards, records show.

With nearly half the total contributions coming from special interests—the numbers do not include donations made by individuals and family members affiliated with corporations—it is evident that the decision of choosing political leaders has been taken away from the citizenry in favor of moneyed power brokers.

Elections now go to the candidate who has the most money to spend on the slickest image building and most damaging character assassination of the opposition—all with little or no attention given to real issues or genuine political ideology. It’s as if every candidate has adopted the sales adage that says you don’t sell the hamburger, you sell the sizzle. To create that sizzle, politicians have shamelessly sold their souls to people like the Koch brothers, financier George Soros, Amway founder Richard DeVos, Las Vegas casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

Voters would probably be wise to examine the issues more carefully, question candidates on their positions and reject the big money the way the old 1960s-era print advertisement for the Volkswagen Beetle which shows two men campaigning from convertible vehicles, one photo has a candidate standing in the rear seat of a luxury vehicle (it appears to be a Cadillac) trailed by a marching band, and the other from the back seat of an economy Beetle with a lone bass drummer behind him—with the caption “Which man would you vote for?”

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Indeed, Louisiana, which man would you vote for? It would behoove us to take long looks at the candidates and what they stand for and not vote for the one who can best saturate TV ads with photos of him and his beaming family as he prattles on about how much he loves corporate donors and PACs this state.

Julia O’Donoghue, writing for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, noted that each of the four leading candidates for governor said he will not be signing the “no-tax” pledge of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/post_584.html

“As Louisiana’s next governor, I’ll make fiscal decisions that are best for Louisiana, not based on what a Washington group dictates,” says Vitter, the top money-raiser of the four. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/grover_norquists_no_tax_increa.html

But though Vitter says he would not sign the pledge as governor, he already has, as U.S. Senator.

That’s why it is so crucial to watch what the candidates do and not what they say. As you watch the polished TV ads in the coming months remember that old expression “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you are saying.”

That’s especially true of Vitter and Angelle. One has somehow survived not one, but two, extra-marital scandals, either one of which would have destroyed the political careers of other men, and the other is nothing more than Third Term Jindal—an appointee of and anointed by the man who single-handedly wrecked higher education, the Office of Group Benefits, the state’s hospital system, the state’s infrastructure and the state’s economy while on his way (he somehow still believes) to the White House.

LouisianaVoice received a most interesting web post about so-called “dark money” in political campaigns. The post, entitled Be Afraid of the Dark: How Dark Money affects elections, is the creation of Accounting-Degree.org and though dated, provides a thorough explanation of how $200 million in dark money—money not covered by federal disclosure rules intended to inform the public of who is paying to influence its vote—was expected to be spent in the 2014 Congressional elections last fall. http://www.accounting-degree.org/dark-money/

It goes into a detailed explanation of:

  • The 1976 U.S. Supreme Court Decision Buckley v. Valeo, which allowed unlimited campaign expenditures by individuals;
  • The Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision by the Supreme Court allowing unlimited outside campaign expenditures by corporations and labor unions;
  • The 2010 Speechnow v. FEC Appeals Court decision allowing unlimited contributins to political action committees by individuals;
  • Super PACs, the political action committees that accept and spend unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions (donors publicly disclosed);
  • 501(c)(4) Committees, the nonprofit campaign committees regulated by the IRS, not elections officials. Though not political in their primary function, they may accept and spend unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions and may then funnel money to super PACs (donors not publicly disclosed).

With an estimated $5 billion poured into last fall’s federal election campaigns, one has to wonder why the contributors, those who love power and love using it, would not be satisfied with using that money for the greater good—feeding the poor, paying teachers more, building infrastructure, health care, etc., rather than using it for the more sinister purpose of buying candidates and elections.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the campaign contributions from Jan. 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015 for the four leading gubernatorial candidates:

DAVID VITTER (Rep.): VITTER CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 1,158 totaling $3.7 million (Ave. contribution: $3,195);
  • Total contributions of $5,000 maximum: 592 at $2.96 million (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest (corporations, PACs, etc.) at $5,000 maximum: 328 at $1.64 million (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of all amounts: 532 at $2 million (more than half his total contributions of all amounts from all sources) (Ave. contribution: $3,759);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 186 at $490,835 (Ave. contribution: $2,639) (including Texas: 54 for $201,500; Virginia: 19 for $38,500; Washington, D.C.: 12 for $27,000).

SCOTT ANGELLE (Rep.): ANGELLE CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 430 at $1.5 million (Ave. contribution: $3,486);
  • Total contributions of $5,000 maximum: 230 for $1,150,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: 130 at $650,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions, all amounts: 213 for $800,500 (Ave. contribution: $3,758);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 84 for $339,000 (Ave. contribution: $4,036) (including Texas: 74 at $316,000, an average contribution of $4,270).

JAY DARDENNE (Rep.): JAY DARDENNE CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 409 at $597,000 (Ave. contribution: $1,460);
  • Total contributions at $5,000 maximum: 46 at $230,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: 16 at $80,000 (Ave contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions, all amounts: 115 at $111,825 (Ave contribution: $972);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 24 for $36,350 (Ave. contribution: 1,515) (Texas: 13 for $20,320 for an average contribution of $1,563).

JOHN BEL EDWARDS (Dem.): JOHN BEL EDWARDS CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 198 at $299,700 (Ave. contribution: $1,514);
  • Total contributions of $5,000 maximum: 15 at $75,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: 5 at $25,000 (Ave. contribution $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions, all amounts: 94 at $94,250 (Ave. contribution: $1,003);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 23 at $24,200 (Ave. contribution: $1,052).

QUICK SUMMARY:

  • Out-of-state contributions: Vitter with 186 for $490,835, compared to 131 for $399,550 for the other three candidates combined;
  • Special interest contributions: Vitter with 532 for $2 million, compared to 422 for $1,006,375 for the other three candidates combined;
  • Special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: Vitter with 328 for $1.64 million, compared to 151 for $755,000 for Angelle, Dardenne and Edwards combined;
  • Contributions of the $5,000 maximum: 592 for $2.96 million while the remaining three candidates combined for 291 contributions totaling $1,455,000.

Finally, it might be worth mentioning that in 2011 Bobby Jindal raised a whopping $12 million for his re-election campaign.

And you see what that bought us.

 

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There’s blood in the water and the sharks are starting to circle.

To clarify the analogy somewhat, the blood is $750 million in tobacco settlement money and the sharks would be 144 state legislators and the guy masquerading as Louisiana’s governor.

Bobby Jindal, the same guy who as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) in 1996, opposed the state’s participation in the 46-state litigation against the nation’s four largest tobacco companies, now wants to sell off the remaining portion of the 1998 settlement of that suit to generate $750 million for the state treasury.

That’s the same Bobby Jindal who as DHH secretary, was well aware that the state was spending millions of dollars per year in treatment of indigent patients for tobacco-related illnesses at the state’s charity hospitals, but nevertheless signed affidavits along with his boss, then-Gov. Mike Foster, that argued that Attorney General Richard Ieyoub did not have the authority to sue on behalf of the state and DHH.

That’s also the same Bobby Jindal who as governor in absentia, successfully opposed the lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against 97 oil and gas companies in an effort to hold them accountable for damages to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, claiming that SLFPA-E did not have authority to file suit on behalf of the state.

No matter. The tobacco litigation was settled for $365.5 billion in 1998 and the state was in line to receive $4.6 billion, or $141.2 million per year for 25 years and continued payments as long as tobacco products are sold within the state as its share of the settlement. http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/tobacco-settlement-payments/

But in 2001, the state, with the support of State Treasurer John Kennedy, sold 60 percent of its settlement income as a hedge against the possibility of bankruptcy by the tobacco companies. That money was placed in a trust fund that generates revenue for health care, education and the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), the program that provides college scholarships to Louisiana high school students to meet curriculum and grade criteria.

Now, though, Jindal is proposing selling off the remaining 40 percent, a move that Kennedy opposes, saying it represents the same disastrous fiscal policy that is responsible for the current $1.6 billion structural deficit in the state budget.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, in her usual condescending manner, said Kennedy does not understand what the administration is trying to do.

“The only way we will consider this is if it creates recurring revenue for TOPS,” she said, adding that the money would not be spent all at one time.

But Nichols and Jindal only have a few months left in office and have no way of guaranteeing how the money will be used and Kennedy is more than a little skeptical of Jindal’s motives. “It’s just another gimmick to generate one-time money,” he said. “It’s just not a good idea to sell the family silver.”

He said the administration does not have the authority to dictate how the money is spent. “That will be the decision of the legislature and with the history of the legislature being what it is, you know they can’t wait to get their hands on this money,” he said.

Kennedy said the proposed sale is much like the manner in which the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) saw its reserve fund reduced from $500 million to only about $100 million and still dwindling.

“The administration reduced premiums for OGB members which on the surface, looked like a great thing for the members.” What the administration didn’t say is that the move also reduced the state’s corresponding obligation to match premiums, thus freeing up money the state would have paid into OGB for helping Jindal patch his budget holes. Meanwhile, because of reduction in income from premiums, OGB found itself paying out about $14 million more in benefits each month than it was taking in, thus creating a continuous drawdown on the reserve fund.

Kennedy said the revenue from the sale of the tobacco settlement cannot be used to plug budget holes because it would have to be used for TOPS and higher education. But by dedicating the money for TOPS, it would allow the administration to take the money it would normally use for those two purposes and redirect it to the state budget.

Kennedy said the administration has taken on all the characteristics of a junkie in search of a fix.

He said Jindal’s chronic use of one-time money to fill budget holes has included selling state property, raiding the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly, indirectly taking funds from the OGB reserve fund. “When you get hooked badly enough, you will sell your shoes for a fix,” Kennedy said. “Any farmer knows it’s a bad idea to sell your seed corn because then you don’t have anything to plant next year’s crop.”

Noting that Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s bond rating agencies have already put Louisiana on negative credit watch, he said the rating agencies will take a dim view of the state’s selloff of the remainder of the tobacco settlement which is currently generating about $50 million a year for the state.

Nichols said the proposal to sell the remaining 40 percent of the settlement would have to be approved by the Tobacco Settlement Financing Corp. Board, the Legislature and the State Bond Commission. The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in House Committee Room 1 in the State Capitol.

Approval by the board is expected to be a mere formality since the board members are Jindal appointees.

“My fear is that all $750 million of this money will be spent,” Kennedy said. “Everyone will want a piece of the pie. That will only add to our structural deficit and what will we do next once the money is gone? We’ve got to stop thinking about the next election and begin thinking about the next generation. Don’t hold this fire sale.”

If the board does approve it and it goes before the Legislature, “we are going to do everything we can to oppose the sale,” Kennedy said.

The practice of Bobby Jindal’s selling off everything in sight to raise money is reminiscent of a 2011 comment by former State Sen. Butch Gautreaux (D-Morgan City) who, in criticizing Jindal’s practice of selling state property, suggested acerbically that perhaps the administration should consider selling the 24-story State Capitol building because “it would make a great waterslide.” http://louisianavoice.com/2011/04/29/of-water-slides-and-comparisons-between-2-state-health-plans/

 

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In the seven-plus years of his administration, Gov. Bobby has pretty much had his way with the legislature in passing his so-called reform programs. The lone exception is his aborted effort to abolish the state income tax a couple of years ago.

Everything else—education reform, state employee retirement reform, privatization of the Office of Risk Management, the Office of Group Benefits, the state’s charity hospital system, rejection of Medicaid expansion, cutting funding for higher education, the sell-off of state property, and of course, all those generous corporate tax exemptions, credits and incentives for—sailed through the legislature, to borrow a phrase from my formative years, like crap through a goose.

Only the courts were able to restore some degree of sanity to the education and retirement changes.

So how has all that change worked out for the state?

Well, according to Marsha Shuler, writing in today’s Baton Rouge Advocate, the OGB reserve fund, which was already largely depleted since the privatization of that agency, has now fallen below that financial advisers believe to be a “safe” level. Those reserve funds, which were more than $500 million before Gov. Bobby’s meddling, are now at a dismal $102.8 million and at a burn rate (paying out more than it’s taking in) of $14.9 million a month (spending $1.14 for every dollar in revenue), the fund is on a trajectory of hitting less than $30 million by June 30. http://theadvocate.com/news/11705445-123/group-benefits-reserves-continue-to

The privatization of the state’s charity hospital system has resulted in a $190 million state liability to Medicaid even after the privatization deal was approved in part by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/local/2015/01/11/hospital-decision-good-jindal-less-others/21538739/

The ripple effect of the hospital privatization has also resulted in the decision by Baton Rouge General Mid-City to close its emergency room facilities next month because of operating losses generated by the closure of Earl K. Long Medical Center which served the poor community of Baton Rouge.

But never one to pass up an opportunity to put a positive spin on bad decisions, Gov. Bobby, while taking pot shots at the Obama administration for everything from Obamacare to his Mideast policies to the threat of an imminent Islamic coup in Europe, keeps telling us (on those rare occasions when he is in the state) how wonderful things are and how Louisiana continues to outpace the rest of the nation in economic growth and business climate. http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=4156

His head cheerleader, Rolfe McCollister is right behind him, lending the influence of his publication, the Baton Rouge Business Report, to augment Gov. Bobby’s rosy proclamations.

http://www.businessreport.com/business/columns/la-makes-biggest-leap-in-forbes-rankings

But one should keep uppermost in mind that McCollister was treasurer of Gov. Bobby’s re-election campaign and as Bobby’s appointee to the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, was instrumental in securing the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for that prayer rally attended by about 3,500 people in the spacious 18,000-seat arena.

But let’s look at the latest survey, one which Gov. Bobby undoubtedly will ignore as he traipses about Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in search of enough commitments to get him to even register in polls of likely Republican presidential contenders.

24/7 Wall St. is a corporation which runs a financial news and opinion company. The company publishes up to 30 articles per day which are published throughout the world.

Its latest survey, issued today (Feb. 27) puts Louisiana at the very bottom of its list of the Best and Worst States for Business. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2015/02/26/the-best-and-worst-states-for-business/?utm_source=247WallStDailyNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FEB272015A&utm_campaign=DailyNewsletter

That’s right, Mississippi no longer owns the anchor spot in 24/7 Wall St.’s multitudinous surveys of things good and bad. This one belongs to Louisiana.

Here’s what the survey says about Louisiana:

  • No state fared worse on 24/7 Wall St.’s business climate Index than Louisiana. The state is not the worst place to run all businesses, however. The manufacturing sector accounted for more than 20% of Louisiana’s economic output in 2013, the fourth highest such contribution in the country. Despite the strong sector, Louisiana generally provides poor conditions for business.
  • Nearly one in five residents lived in poverty in 2013 — nearly the worst rate in the nation — contributing to both the low quality of the labor force as well as a low quality of life in the state. The working-age population was projected to decline by 3.2% from 2010 through 2020, one of the worst declines in the nation. While nearly 30% of Americans had at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, only 22.5% of Louisiana adults had at least such a degree, also nearly the lowest rate. Poor education contributed to poor scores in innovation. The state was one of only a handful of states where the average venture capital investment was less than $1 million.

There were several factors that went into the evaluation of the state’s lowly status as a place to do business:

  • The state’s gross domestic product growth of 1.3 percent was 17th lowest in the nation;
  • Average wages and salaries of $44,828 were 23rd lowest;
  • The percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees was 5th lowest at 22.5 percent;
  • The 395 patents issued to residents were 13th lowest;
  • The negative 3.2 percent projected working-age population growth was 13th lowest.

The survey also noted that Louisiana ranked:

  • 47th in infrastructure;
  • 48th in the quality of life (the lack of adequate health care for many could be a factor in that statistic);
  • 49th in labor and human capital

Mississippi? As far as Louisiana and Gov. Bobby are concerned, that state is up there in the stratosphere at only the 4th worst in the nation.

Rounding out the bottom five were West Virginia (49th), Kentucky (48th), and Alabama (46th).

The five best, in order, were Utah, Massachusetts, Wyoming, South Dakota and Delaware, according to the survey.

Iowa and New Hampshire ranked 12th and 14th, respectively, which may help explain why Gov. Bobby spends so much time in those places instead of the state that he was elected to govern.

Nah.

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