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Editor’s note: Normally, we do not make a practice of publishing letters from readers as a guest column. But in this case, we make an exception because we were struck by the manner in which this writer expressed his concern for our state. With only minor editing for punctuation, syntax, etc., we offer here an essay written by a retired state employee now living in Pointe Coupee Parish.

By Kerry Phillips (Special to LouisianaVoice)

After reading this article:  http://louisianavoice.com/2015/04/24/it-wasnt-the-best-week-for-louisiana-as-state-hit-with-triple-whammy-at-least-no-1-lsu-beat-no-2-tex-am-in-baseball/,  and this article: http://bobmannblog.com/2015/04/24/for-jindal-if-the-choice-is-tax-hikes-vs-closing-lsu-its-bye-bye-lsu/, and after watching The Ed Show on April 24 on MSNBC regarding Jindal’s religious freedom bill and how he is truly now a national joke…..and finally, after reading Bobby Jindal’s op-ed in The New York Times, and not hearing anything about any of this in the news with the exception of a small article in The Advocate on the OGB fiasco, I have to say that as much as we love this great state of Louisiana, the heritage, the diversity, the culture, the beauty this state has to offer with many aspects, we will be moving AWAY from this state as soon as we possibly can.

We are at the bottom of every list possible nationwide, and thank God this info is getting out nationwide. We are a laughing stock. And I am sad. Sad for my state. Sad for the people, the young, elderly, poor, government workers, fire fighters, teachers. Should I go on?

I was born here.  I was born in Baton Rouge and attended fantastic schools there. I went to college in this state. I worked for over 30 years as a state employee. I was so proud when I first got my voter’s registration card and I have voted in every election. I retired, thinking my state would honor the commitments they made to me throughout my career.

Sadly, it seems I was fooled.

To know that our legislators are basically bought and paid for by lobbyists and special interests groups who truly have no interest in our state that we call paradise is sad. We have always been known nationwide as a “banana republic.” Now I see why.

No one should say that our citizens move away from this state because of a lack of jobs. They now move away because of this cruel joke that has been perpetrated on us by a handful of people within the last decade. None of these people even care about this state, our education, our colleges, our government workers, our healthcare, etc. What we’re seeing is robbery and pilfering by people who only care about one agenda. And that agenda has nothing to do with the welfare of the citizens of Louisiana. Nor does it have anything to do with our hospitals, our children’s education, or the workers of this state.

So when you turn on the local news and see people with arms folded, waiting and complaining about long lines at their Motor Vehicle offices, thank yourselves. When there is no hospital emergency system available for your loved ones, thank yourselves. When LSU does not exist anymore, God forbid, thank yourselves. When you fail to register your outrage when a contract giving away our state hospitals—with 50 blank pages—only to have the deal rejected by the federal government, thank yourselves.

My family and I plan to move to a more progressive state—to a state where citizens actually live in the current year/century and do not want to take us back to 1915, a state where people want to move forward in a way that benefits all citizens, not just the few. And no, it’s not because of my legislator, who has worked to improve the economy and to help state employees where I live. It’s because I am now becoming ashamed of our state and most of our legislators who helped get us in our current predicament.

I lived in Baton Rouge until we moved to the Central/Greenwell Springs area where I lived for more than 27 years. For the past 15 years, we have lived in Pointe Coupee Parish. And while I’d absolutely hate to leave this state (and it’s an extremely hard choice for me), I do think we’ve made our decision. Our state appears to be done, over with….unless…..our legislators decided to truly quit being Jindal’s lapdog. They need to quit being afraid to buck his system because his system has ruined and bankrupted our state. They need to stop allowing him to be a dictator in this state. He is not our God.

And when religious leaders—from north Louisiana, no less—oppose his religious freedom bill, we welcome their voices. We do not live with the Old Testament laws because with Jesus, a new testament was founded. Do we really want to go back? Are we going to go against what Jesus preached? I’m not. Are we going to allow Jindal’s religious freedom bill to become the hot topic offered only to deflect attention from the real issues, the disasters of his creation: the financial issues we now face that are the direct result of his ineptness?  Come on.

I pray so very hard that all of our legislators, men and women, will grow some courage and principles and do what is right for the whole of this state. I’m not stupid, though. I know legislators get benefits that no average citizen—or state employee—can get.  But, isn’t it time for them to sit back and ask themselves, “Do I really want to sell my soul for some Saints tickets or concert tickets or a fantastic meal at some expensive restaurant? Do I want to sell my soul? Or do I want to do what the citizens of this state want?”  “Do I want to do what Jesus would do?”

Heavy, thought-provoking questions to ask, I know. But, I know what I would do.

This is going to be one of the most historic legislative sessions in this state’s history. It is going to make or break our state. And I am afraid the state is going to break. And the poor, the sick, the elderly will be the ones to suffer.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with people prospering and living a great life. What’s wrong is people prospering and living a great life on the backs of other people.

And so I have this one simple plea for our legislators: For once, do what is right for the whole of the state.  I pray in earnest for that. My friends and I pray hard that the right things will be done. I would love to live here and pass on the culture and treasures this state has to offer to my grandchildren. But, if things continue on as they have for the last decade, we will have to choose differently.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What strange hold does he have over Jindal?

The pledge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that certainly would be nothing new for Bobby Jindal.

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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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JINDAL PRESIDENTIAL SWEEPSTAKES

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Bobby Jindal proved Wednesday that he still has a few tricks up his sleeve and the 2016 presidential sweepstakes have taken an unanticipated new look as a result.

With Texas Sen. Ted Cruz becoming the first to officially announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, Jindal, who had said he would wait until the 2015 legislative session ended in June to make his announcement, surprised all the experts by making his own announcement today—but not, however, to be the Republican standard-bearer.

Instead, Jindal announced that he will head the newly-founded Latin language-inspired Anas Party, the seventh political party that is expected in the November 2016 election, in a dual strategy to siphon off right-wingnuts from the tea party faction as well as disaffected mainstream Republicans in an effort to “do for the nation what I have done for Louisiana.”

Jindal denied that the timing of his announcement was a result of Cruz’s formal entry into the race. “I had planned to make this announcement at this time all along,” he said. “I referenced a timeframe of the end of the session only in order to be sure all the pieces were in place. As you know, I am results-oriented and every move I make is carefully thought out so as to take all possibilities into consideration. That is what has made my two terms as governor such a success.”

Eschewing a national convention—“that’s another area where waste can be eliminated,” he said, adding that money that normally would go for that purpose would be used to hold the most lavish and ostentatious inauguration in the nation’s history—Jindal announced that Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols will be his vice presidential running mate.

Going even further, he named several current aides and associates whom he said he will appoint as cabinet members and department heads when elected. Heading up his cabinet will be Secretary of Morality Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. “I realize there is no such cabinet position in existence at this time,” Jindal said, “but as I’ve said many times before, this country needs to right itself and embark on a course of morality and righteousness as determined by the only person qualified to set those standards—Phil Robertson.”

Jindal said that given his public stance on gays, women and blacks, “he is an obvious choice for Morality Secretary.”

Other appointments announced nearly two years in advance include:

  • Ruth Johnson: Secretary of Defense owing to her ability to jerk subordinates in line for the temerity of simply talking to someone not considered friendly to the administration;
  • Mike Edmonson: FBI Director because of his unflagging loyalty to Jindal and his background in law enforcement;
  • Troy Hebert: Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, for obvious reasons;
  • Stephen Waguespack: Executive Counsel, the same position he held in Baton Rouge for Jindal;
  • Timmy Teepell: Chief of Staff, likewise the same position he held previously in Jindal’s state administration;
  • Tim Barfield: Treasurer, following his tenure as head of the Louisiana Department of Revenue;
  • Stephen Moret: Secretary of Commerce, where he will continue in his efforts to lure business and industry….back to the U.S.;
  • Alan Levine, Bruce Greenstein, Kathy Kleibert: Secretary of Health and Human Services, because her record at Louisiana DHH speaks for itself;
  • Curt Eysink: Secretary of Labor based on the decimation of workers compensation claims in the state;
  • Kyle Plotkin: Press Secretary, a lateral move and closer to his New Jersey home;
  • Jimmy Faircloth: Special Counsel, in case Jindal ever gets in trouble with the House Judiciary Committee, which will be inevitable if he is elected.

“I’ve given much thoughtful prayer to this and I feel led to form a seventh party. After all, the world was created in seven days and I believe a seventh political party is symbolic of what God wants me to do,” Jindal said.

“In that same vein, I have formed seven separate super PACs through which illicit, illegal and immoral campaign funds may be funneled in order to protect the identities of my supporters,” he added. “In today’s political atmosphere, it’s critical that there be a sufficient number of super PACs to support a candidate’s efforts. There are those who would prefer that their names not be put out there for the public but who nonetheless wish to support my candidacy. The super PACs provide an avenue for them to do just that.”

As President, Jindal said he “will continue to implement the same programs nationally that I have in Louisiana. I am leaving Louisiana better than I found it. Three things:

  • “I have downsized government by reducing the number of state employees by 400,000; “Louisianans are earning more than anyone else in any other state;
  • I’ve created two million new jobs through incentives and tax exemptions;
  • “Our highways and bridges are in the best of shape;
  • “Our colleges and universities are funded at a higher level than at any time in Louisiana history;
  • “Our elementary and secondary school students have the highest scores in the nation;
  • “The bond rating agencies have bestowed the highest ratings on Louisiana;
  • “Our health care takes a back seat to no one, thanks to our wise decision to privatize state hospitals;
  • “I have given the state balanced budgets in each year of my term.

“Going forward, I am prepared and equipped to deal with radical Islam by cutting social programs, education and health care in order to quadruple the Pentagon’s budget. There will be no “no-go” zones in my presidency—except in New Orleans and certain parts of Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Obamacare will be but a distant memory and Americans can be proud of the fact that they will be masters of their own medical fate and not dependent upon federal giveaway programs fraught with corruption, fraud and waste. I will reduce the number of federal employees by 135 million, just as I did in Louisiana while getting the country moving in the right direction—again, as I did in Louisiana.”

For the remainder of his term as governor, Jindal said he will turn the House chamber on the State Capitol’s first floor into a full gospel church, complete with faith healing and exorcisms. “The chamber is never used except for three months a year during the legislative session,” he said. “If we fill the House chamber, we can move a spillover service into the Senate chamber. We will turn the governor’s mansion into a parsonage for visiting preachers because I’m never there anyway.”

Where Ted Cruz used Liberty College as his launching pad for the Republican nomination, Jindal said he will draw heavily on support from the American Family Association (AFA) in Tupelo, Mississippi, and from the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.

“We’re excited about the coming months of this campaign,” he said. “We feel that between Fox News, AFA, Westboro Baptist, and Duck Dynasty, we will sweep all the lunatic fringe crumbs off the table and onto our lap. It’s a great time to be doing what divine inspiration has called upon me to do for America.”

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By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

I became the state budget director in 1988.  Because we had consistently spent more than we had taken in since 1984, we faced a $1 Billion dollar budget and cash flow hole in a budget less than half the size of today’s.  We literally did not have the money to pay our day-to-day bills and, like too many of our citizens, had to hold off paying them until we had the cash.  We were flat busted.

In an effort to ensure this never happened again, we enacted a comprehensive package of budget reforms, including establishing  an official revenue forecast; prohibiting the use of one-time money for recurring expenses; requiring a balanced budget from initial presentation through enactment  and to be maintained throughout the year; providing that any interfund borrowing (the mechanism that enabled us to go totally broke in 1988) had to be repaid by the end of the year in which it was borrowed, and many others.

To address the immediate emergency, we took the unprecedented step of creating a special taxing district that issued bonds we paid back over 10 years by dedicating one cent of our sales tax to debt service.

We began to diversify our economic revenue base.  For example, we went from a 40% reliance on mineral revenues to a less than 10% reliance on them today.  We raised other taxes, including, most notably, sales taxes.

We took full advantage of a federal Medicaid program paying high rates to facilities serving a disproportionate share of poor people (we made an annual “profit” of $700 million from this program during its peak).

We enacted the lottery, riverboat, and land-based casino gambling.

All of these kept us going until 1995 when our economy finally began to perform really well and did so through 1998.  Our economy slowed down in 1999 and it was necessary to pass more taxes.

In 2002, the legislature passed, and the state’s voters approved a plan by Representative Vic Stelly that substituted increases in income taxes for 4 cents of sales taxes on food and utilities and placed these exemptions, along with those on pharmaceuticals, in the state constitution.  The reason:  Because sales taxes are regressive and because income taxes generally respond better to our economy than sales taxes.  In my opinion, and that of many others, the Stelly Plan was the best fiscal legislation passed in our history.

We were doing pretty well until 2005 when Katrina struck.  Ironically, recovery from Katrina fueled our economy to the point that by the time Governor Jindal took office in 2007, we had a $1.1 Billion surplus.  Governor Blanco’s last proposed budget was $29.2 billion, of which over $8.0 billion was disaster relief money.  The legislature enacted a $32 Billion budget that year, including the $8.0 billion in non-recurring money.

So, what happened?

Well, remember those laws we passed to ensure we engaged in sound budgetary practices?  We began to ignore them and we spent the $1.1 Billion surplus and every other pot of one-time money we could find.  We repealed HALF, NOT ALL, of Stelly – the income tax increases that would be generating about what we lose in the sales tax exemptions still on the books today -about $700 million.

We cut corporate taxes in half – by a cool Billion.

We pretended we had a balanced budget every year, but using common sense and the letter of the laws we enacted, it is clear we, in fact, DID NOT.  And, although cuts were made – state funding to higher education, as one example, has been cut by $500 million – we NEVER made the cuts necessary to balance recurring spending with recurring revenue.  Why?  According to Kristy Nichols, Commissioner of Administration, as quoted in 2013, doing so would result in “needless reductions to critical services.”  WHAT?  Are you saying you didn’t cut the budget because you couldn’t?  Or, are you for cutting the budget, but you really don’t want to do so?

Governor Jindal continues to be widely quoted, to this day, saying we need to live within our means.  If that is true, why does he not present budgets that do so?  As long as projected revenues from reliable, stable sources do not equal projected necessary expenditures, we will NEVER have a balanced budget.

Could anything possibly be simpler, or make more sense, than balancing what you plan to spend with what is coming in so you don’t dig a hole for yourself?

It is certainly easy to understand why it is difficult to make hard cuts when cash is, or even may be available, but willfully allowing gross fiscal instability to continue indefinitely is a violation of the public trust and ultimately leads to wasteful spending and the inability to see true inefficiencies because the fiscal house is always on fire.  It is beyond time we were presented with an honest budget on which to make honest decisions.

So, you might rightly ask, “How would you fill the $1.6 Billion hole we read about every day in the papers?”

There are an almost infinite number of ways to do so.  Here’s one:

$1.600 reported gap

($0.160): Don’t Fund Inflation and other continuation costs. We rarely do, anyhow.

($0.180): Make cuts pursuant to consultant “efficiency” recommendations. We ought to get something for the $7 million we blew on this contract.

($0.100): Increase tobacco tax to the southern average

($0.700): Restore the income tax provisions of the Stelly Plan

($0.149): Eliminate the refundable tax credits proposed by the governor, except the inventory credit.

($0.100): Cap film tax credits at $150 million

($0.200): Eliminate exemption from severance taxes on horizontal wells. This was new technology when the exemption was granted. It certainly isn’t now, so no incentive is needed.

($0.011): A rounding figure, based on the Executive Budget. Or do $11 million of the $415 million in strategic cuts recommended by the governor – or, dozens of other possibilities.

$0.000 Remaining Problem.

Too simple, right?   And, perhaps, other holes could be poked in my scenario as well, but it proves it is possible to take a pragmatic approach, combining cuts with a limited number of revenue measures for a relatively simple solution.  We often make things a lot more complicated than they are.  I am convinced our government leaders often make simple things complicated in hope citizens won’t know and question what’s going on.

Regardless of what happens we must have an honest budget. If balancing recurring expenses with recurring revenues means making draconian cuts, so be it. Because they have been misled repeatedly, the bulk of our citizens will never believe we have a problem (or one that can’t simply be solved with cuts) until they experience the reality of a true “reform” budget that raises no revenues and cuts services to achieve balance. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that, but it may be the only path to real reform.

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