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Archive for the ‘Retirement’ Category

A report by the Pew Research Center earlier this week indicated the wealth gap between middle- and upper-income households in America continues to widen to record levels. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pew-wealth-gap-20141217-story.html

Congress has just acted to ensure that that record gap between rich and poor continues to grow https://www.ifebp.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=72

And if you think we down here in Louisiana are insulated and unaffected, think again.

The Pew report, drawing on the latest data from the Federal Reserve, says the median wealth for high-income families was $639,400 last year—up 7 percent from three years earlier on an inflation-adjusted basis—while the median income for Louisiana households was reported at $39,622. The figure for Louisiana represented a drop of 19.7 percent from the state’s 1999 peak year of median earnings of about $48,400. http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/Household-Incomes-by-State.php

In 1983, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was a shade less than 50:1. Today that difference stands at 331:1 and the CEO-to-minimum-wage-worker pay ratio is even more obscene at 774:1. http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2014

There also is this: http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0711/5-outrageous-ceo-spending-abuses-and-perks.aspx

And yet, even as corporate CEO pay and perks continue to reach stratospheric figures that the average employee can only imagine, Congress took a step last week that could actually lead to a major financial hit for retirees.

If that mammoth spending bill passed by Congress on Dec. 11 escaped your scrutiny, perhaps you should have been paying closer attention. Included in that bill was an obscure amendment which will permit benefit cuts for retirees in one type of pension plan—multi-employer plans jointly run by unions and employers.

By definition, that would mean members of unions who work for several companies. That could conceivably include Teamsters, building trades, longshoremen and any other workers whose unions have working agreements with multiple companies. http://www.wsj.com/articles/pension-change-seen-as-setting-a-precedent-1418586647

Louis Reine, President of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, acknowledged the amendment was inserted as a means of keeping some pension plans that are on shaky footing afloat. At the same time, however, he warned that the move was a “slippery slope” and should be approved “with all due caution and deliberation.”

That’s because now that management has a foot in the heretofore impenetrable door protecting workers’ pensions, the table has been set for even more far-reaching legislation to strip away benefits in other areas, including the public sector.

Remember, it was on Jan. 25, 2012, just three years ago, that Gov. Bobby Jindal, in a speech to the Baton Rotary Club, outlined his plans to “reform the state pension system to keep the state’s promise to workers, protect critical services and save taxpayer dollars.” http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=3220

Among those plans to “protect the state’s promise to workers” was a revamp of the state pension system that would have gutted benefits for state employees. We have often cited here the example of the worker who, if she never received another pay raise, would be eligible to retire after 30 years with a retirement of $39,000 per year. But under Jindal’s plan to “protect” her, that $39,000 would be reduced to $6,000 per year—a $33,000 per year hit—and the employee was not eligible for Social Security or Medicare.

The courts, fortunately for state employees, declared the state’s pension plan a contract which could not be arbitrarily broken by the state, though the state was left free to offer new hires a defined contribution retirement plan as opposed to the defined benefit to which the employee we cited was entitled.

The Wall Street Journal called the amendment to the federal spending bill as a “model for further cuts,” and therein lies the real threat to workers and retirees alike.

Karen Friedman, Executive Vice President of the Pension Rights Center, said the measure would “set a terrible precedent” in that it could encourage similar cutbacks in troubled state and local pension plans and maybe even Social Security and Medicare.

That is a chilling prediction and in all probability, deadly accurate.

The thumbprints of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are all over the amendment and the Koch brothers-run organization isn’t about to stop with gutting the pensions of a few union retirees.

And before anyone tries to claim that business and industry does not have an organized union to represent their interests, we have three words for you: U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And the U.S. Chamber is not only a member of ALEC, but is a major operative within ALEC. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/U.S._Chamber_of_Commerce

In 1971, an obscure corporate attorney named Lewis Powell authored what has come to be known as the Powell Manifesto. In it, he laid out a blueprint for a corporate legislative agenda to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Director of the U.S. Chamber. That memorandum by Powell, written only two months before President Nixon nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy, among others.

Powell’s memo has also served ALEC’s legislative agenda which includes, among other things, the privatization of Social Security and Medicare. http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/

Is it merely a coincidence that Louisiana’s Right to Work law, supported by ALEC and the U.S. Chamber, was passed only five years after Powell’s memorandum and four years after the founding of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI)?

So now, ALEC, the U.S. Chamber, and Republican leaders alike already have Social Security and Medicare in their crosshairs: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/republican-social-security-cuts so can other private pension plans be far behind? Will the individual states like Louisiana renew efforts to slash retirement benefits for state employees?

As Louis Reine said, it is indeed a slippery slope and once the momentum moves in that direction, it will be virtually impossible to reverse.

And it’s important to remember that while public employees’ retirement benefits are at risk, the opening salvo has been aimed at private pension benefits. If they can pull that off, the rest will simply be low-hanging fruit.

Are you willing to take to the streets to defend what is rightfully yours?

How much is your retirement worth to you?

These questions are not hypothetical.

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Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden has formally announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor to succeed Jay Darden in next fall’s election. And even though the field for the state’s second highest office is starting to get a little crowded, it’s expected to attract little attention.

That’s because all eyes will be focused on the battle to succeed Bobby Jindal as governor. Already, we have Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, and State Sen. John Bel Edwards vying for the state’s top job with more anticipated between now and next year’s qualifying.

Whoever your favorite candidate for governor, you may wish to reconsider wishing the job on him. In sports, there is a saying that no one wants to be the man who follows the legend. Instead, the preference would be to be the man who follows the man who followed the legend.

No one, for example, could ever have stepped in as Bear Bryant’s immediate successor at the University of Alabama and succeeded. That person was former Alabama receiver Ray Perkins who in his four years, won 32 games, lost 15 and tied one. He was followed by Bill Curry who went 26-10 in his three years. Gene Stallings was next and posted a 62-25 record that included a national championship over seven years before he retired.

Then came in rapid succession five coaches over the next nine years who combined to record a composite losing record of 51-55 before Nick Saban came along in 2007 to pull the program from the ashes.

No one in his right mind should wish to follow Jindal. It is not because of Jindal’s success as governor; just the opposite. When he walks out of the Governor’s Mansion for the final time, Jindal will leave this state in such a financial and functional mess that no one can succeed in righting the ship in a single term—and that may be all the patience Louisiana’s citizens will have for the new governor. Bottom line, voters are weary of seven years of budget cuts and depleted services. Ask anyone waiting and DMV to renew their driver’s license.

The electorate, at least those who pay attention to what’s going on, are bone tired of a governor who is never in the state but instead is flitting all over the country trying to pad his curriculum vitae for a run at the Republican nomination for president.

They are jaded at the hypocrisy of a first-term Gov. Jindal who kept popping up in Protestant churches (he’s Catholic) to pander the Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostals when he was facing re-election compared to a second-term and term-limited Gov. Jindal who has not shown his face in a single Protestant church anywhere in the state.

Some, though admittedly not all, are unhappy with the manner in which he has consistently rejected federal Medicaid expansion and $80 million in federal grants for broadband internet and $300 million for a high-speed rail line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans—money state taxpayers have already paid into the system and now have to chance to recoup that money. (It’s sort of like refusing your federal tax refund because you feel it’s not free money. Well, no, it’s not free money but it is money you’ve already paid it in and now you have a chance to get some of it back.)

And there are those who are not at all pleased with the salaries paid Jindal appointees (not to mention raises they’ve received while rank and file employees have gone five years without raises). The administration has been free and loose with salaries paid top unclassified employees in every state agency, from Division of Administration on down. Those salaries are a huge drain on the state retirement systems. That’s one of the reasons there was so much controversy over Jindal’s attempted backdoor amendment to an obscure Senate bill that would have given State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson an annual retirement increase of $55,000—more than many full time state employees make.

With that in mind, we have what we feel would be a meaningful proposal for some enterprising gubernatorial candidate. It’s an idea that we feel has considerable merit and one we feel would resonate with voters.

With the state facing a billion-dollar shortfall for next year, the suggestion is more symbolic that a real fix, but what if a candidate would pledge publicly that he would draw on the pool of retired educators and executives for his cabinet? And what if he purposely avoid appointing anyone with political ambitions such as Angelle, who went from Secretary of Natural Resources to Public Service Commission and who is now an announced candidate for governor?

If a candidate said he could immediately save the state in excess of $2 million a year by hiring retired executives to head state agencies at salaries of $1 per year each, that would strike a chord with every registered voter in the state—or it should.

If a candidate would say, “I will not appoint any member of my cabinet who is dependent upon the position for his living, nor will I appoint any member who has aspirations of public office for himself,” what a refreshing breath of air that would be, vastly different from the standard hot air rhetoric of the typical political campaign.

Where would he find these types of people willing to give of their time? That would be for the candidate himself to recruit but James Bernhard would be a good start. Bernhard certainly has the experience, having founded and built up the Shaw Group to the point that he was able to sell the company for $3 billion while selling off some of his personal company stock for another $45 million.

That spells success by every definition of the word. And Bernhard certainly would have no need for a salary. He would be a logical choice for Commissioner of Administration.

And then there is his father-in-law, retired Louisiana Tech University President Dan Reneau. What better choice could a governor have for Commissioner of Higher Education?

There are scores of others, from retired doctors and hospital administrators, to retired military personnel like Gen. Russel Honoré to head up the Department of Veterans Affairs to retired federal and state law enforcement personnel to retired scientists and educators, and the list goes on and on.

This would by no means be a guaranteed ticket to success for Jindal’s successor; there is just too much mess he will be leaving behind.

But it would be a huge psychological advantage for anyone wishing to take on that unenviable job of being the one to follow Jindal.

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A group of state employees and retirees is attempting to raise funds to finance a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Division of Administration over the pirating of nearly a quarter-billion dollars of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) reserve fund.

LA VERITE (French for Truth, but also an acronym for Louisiana Voices of Employees and Retirees for Insurance Truth and Equity) is soliciting donations to help pay the legal fees required to file and to pursue the litigation to prevent Jindal from dipping further into what once was a reserve fund of more than $500 million in order to balance his perpetually out-of-kilter state budget.

Below is a letter LouisianaVoice received from LA VERITE which is self-explanatory:

GIVE YOURSELF A CHRISTMAS GIFT –

INVEST IN YOUR FUTURE

 DONATE TODAY TO SUE BOBBY JINDAL AND

STOP THE OGB HEALTH PLAN CHANGES THAT WILL KEEP YOU AND YOUR FAMILY FROM HAVING AFFORDABLE INSURANCE AND HEALTH CARE

Are you ready to join the fight to stop Bobby Jindal’s illegal destruction of the Office of Group Benefits?  You can be a part of the challenge to Bobby Jindal’s plan to prevent state employees and retirees from having decent, affordable, comprehensive health insurance.

 PLEASE DONATE WHATEVER YOU CAN AFFORD TO LA VERITE’ SO WE CAN FILE A LAWSUIT TO STOP THE CRIPPLNG INCREASES IN OUT-OF-POCKET (YOUR POCKET) COSTS OF THE NEW HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS TAKING EFFECT ON MARCH 1, 2015. 

 We cannot file the lawsuit until funds have been raised to do so.

 Please send a check or money order as soon as possible to:

LA VERITE’

7575 Jefferson Hwy. #35

Baton Rouge, LA  70806

 HELP STOP THE ILLEGAL AND IMMORAL THEFT OF

YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY.

Jindal plans to balance the state budget on us – state employees and retirees.  Can you afford to pay for his giveaways to his rich friends through tax breaks that have drained the state budget?  We will be paying for Jindal’s corrupt practices long after he is gone.  See the news story below:

From The Advocate: ‘State budget saving report brings questions':

Marsha Shuler Dec. 08, 2014

The Jindal administration is two-thirds of the way toward achieving savings called for in the state’s $25 billion budget for the current fiscal year, officials told a legislative committee Monday….The administration updated the committee on goals contained in the Governmental Efficiencies Management Support report released in June. The overall report, submitted by private consultants Alvarez & Marsal, identifies more than $2.7 billion savings or revenue generating ideas that the state will implement over the next five years across all areas of operations…. About $1 billion of the savings is expected to come from the state Office of Group Benefits which provides insurance to some 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents. Changes are currently underway, including increased premiums and shifting more out-of-pocket expenses to plan members.

*****************************

After years without merit increases, some state employees finally received a raise last year, and most received a four percent raise Oct. 1. Our paychecks would be approximately 20 percent more if we had received regular merit increases during the Jindal years. While Jindal pretends not to raise taxes, we state employees are being taxed in effect, to fund tax breaks for the very wealthy.

THERE WILL BE NO RAISE IN 2015 DUE TO THE CURRENT FISCAL CRISIS – A HUGE DEFICIT THIS FISCAL YEAR. Drastic mid-year budget cuts will soon be announced to attempt to deal with THE LOOMING $1.4 BILLION DEFICIT NEXT FISCAL YEAR.

Jindal has privatized OGB and raided the trust fund, so now we are facing increased premiums, imposition of deductibles where none existed before, and confusing plans that have been repeatedly changed so we cannot understand the coverage….all designed to further punish hardworking, dedicated public servants.  After withholding our merit increases for years Jindal now plans to impose crippling increases in our healthcare costs that most of us cannot afford.

Jindal and Kristi Nichols have refused to abide by the requirements of the Louisiana Administrative Procedures Act (APA) – actions which the Attorney General has ruled illegal, meaning their OGB agenda is not legal. They are thumbing their noses at the law, and jeopardizing the wellbeing of almost a quarter of a million Louisiana citizens. Help stop the most corrupt administration in modern state history from carrying out their plan to cause further financial harm to you and your family.

*********************

LA VERITE’ is a group of state employees and retirees seeking to bring a lawsuit to prevent Jindal and Kristi Nichols from forcing us into poorly designed, expensive health plans that we cannot afford.  Anyone can join LA Verite’ – in fact, you already belong if you are an active or retired Louisiana state employee.

LA Verite’ is French for TRUTH, and stands for LouisianA Voices of Employees and Retirees for Insurance Truth and Equity.

Contact us at LA.Verite2015@outlook.com

Remember: as a civil servant, you have the right to participate in activities concerning issues that impact you.  You may publicly support or oppose issues other than support of candidates or political parties (Civil Service General Circular Number 2014-021).  We have also consulted a state ethics attorney who assures that we are within our rights.  This effort is legal and ethical.

However, be assured that your donation to LA VERITE’ to help fund the OGB lawsuit will be kept confidential.  Your identity will not be made public.  Donations are not tax deductible.

Please share this information with co-workers.  Forward the email or print it out and pass it on.  Truth and equity in 2015!

 

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What will Gov. Bobby Jindal say when he appears on Meet the Press Sunday?

Of course we know he will attack President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare while ignoring the fact that his decision not to expand Medicaid may end up costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s a given.

At the same time he is criticizing Obama for not being more proactive on the Ebola crisis, he will fail to mention his rejection of the Medicaid expansion has been at the expense of health coverage for a couple hundred thousand low-income Louisianans.

He will condemn the president for his lax immigration policy while turning a blind eye to the indisputable fact that Latin Americans who do enter this country generally take low-paying jobs no one else wants. He won’t mention companies like IBM, Dell, ACS, and Pfizer, to name but a few, that have taken advantage of an obscure work visa (the H-1B program) to lay off more than 250,000 Americans from high-tech IT jobs. These companies lay Americans off in favor of importing hundreds of thousands of Indians who work for far less, thus saving these companies billions of dollars.

He will no doubt boast of his accomplishments as governor—claims that simply will not stand up under close examination—apparently pulled off by remote control. This is especially the case during his second term when his title would more accurately be governor in absentia. He has spent an inordinate amount of time traveling outside the state in an attempt to build support for a anemic campaign for the GOP presidential nomination that, despite his near-desperate efforts, is gaining no traction.

He could lambast the Common Core curriculum, once again ignoring that fact that he was in favor of Common Core before he was against it.

There are so many other things he could discuss but probably won’t.

He won’t mention, for instance, his abysmal record in the state’s courtrooms. One of these was his miserably failed effort to jerk retirement benefits from under the feet of active state employees, some of whom would have seen their retirement income plummet to as little as $6,000 a year—with no social security—had he been successful.

He will attempt once again to convince the nation—those of us in Louisiana know better, of course—that he has balanced the state budget while cutting taxes and reducing the number of state employees.

Yes, he has reduced the number of state employees, but at what cost? The Office of Group Benefits (OGB) is a shell of the once smooth-running state office that handled the medical claims of some 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents. Not that that matters to Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols who, we are told, is a member of the LSU health plan and thus unaffected by the changes.

And of course Jindal, through his smoke and mirrors game of premium reductions, has managed to siphon off more than half of OGB’s $500 million reserve fund. He also recently attempted to slash benefits and pile unaffordable co-pay and deductible increases onto the backs of state employees and retirees. In short, his grand scheme to privatize OGB has proven nothing less than an unmitigated disaster of politically humiliating (to him) proportions. His firing of respected CEO Tommy Teague and the mess that has ensued stand as a monument to unparalleled mismanagement and political meddling.

And his budget balancing has produced unprecedented cuts to higher education. Colleges and universities in Louisiana have seen their appropriations gouged by nearly 70 percent during Jindal’s almost seven sorry years in office. God help us if he should somehow be placed in the position of inflicting such carnage on the nation as he has on Louisiana.

And what of that claim of balancing the budget, anyway?

Let’s review.

We will take figures provided to us by State Treasurer John Kennedy that reflect the general fund balances as of Oct. 31. And while we are quick to acknowledge the fact that the numbers will certainly improve next spring when revenues start picking up from state income tax and corporate tax collections, a comparison of the last five Octobers is both startling and sobering.

As of Oct. 31 of this year, the general fund balance reflected a deficit of $924.6 million. That’s just $75.4 million shy of $1 billion—and OGB alone is losing $16 million each month.

And yes, the numbers will improve next spring but let’s look back just one year. As of Oct. 31, 2013, the balance reflected a deficit of $656.7 million. That’s nearly $268 million less in negative spending than for this year.

Still not convinced? Well, for Oct. 31, 2012, the deficit was $476.6 million, about $448 million less than for the same month in 2014.

And while it was slightly higher at $565.2 million on Oct. 31, 2011, the number for 2010 was only $181.5 million—almost three-quarters of a billion dollars billion better than this year.

In five short years, the October deficit for the state general fund balance has increased fivefold.

The historically high negative balance, which arrives just a few months into each new fiscal year (which begins on July 1), “is forcing fund borrowing to sustain cash flow,” Kennedy says. “It darkly foreshadows the challenge ahead for lawmakers and the governor in the 2015 regular session. A budget shortfall of at least $1.2 billion is expected, but it’s clearly a figure that could move. It also increases the likelihood of midyear budget cuts in the minds of some.” (The administration finally admitted this even as this post was being written on Friday. Spending for the next seven months will have to be slashed by at least $171 million because of lower than anticipated revenues.) http://theadvocate.com/news/10833948-123/state-needs-mid-year-budget-correction

And here is the rub that has Kennedy and Nichols crossing swords: Kennedy says to some lawmakers, “the negative balance is at a critical high because the state started the fiscal year with a deficit cash balance of $141 million and because expenses actually are greater than revenues,” Kennedy said.

Nichols, however, vehemently disagrees, claiming instead that the administration stumbled upon some $320 million in extra cash from prior years lying around in agencies scattered across the state which she claims gives the state an actual surplus of nearly $179 million.

The problem she has, however, is that no one believes her—including two former commissioners of administration interviewed by LouisianaVoice, both of whom say it’s just not feasible that that much money could have been just lying around all these years without anyone’s knowing of its existence.

Nichols, of course, has to maintain a brave face in order that her boss can save face.

You see, as Bob Mann points out in his latest posting on his blog Something Like the Truth, Jindal “must never have raised a tax” and “must never have presided over an unbalanced state budget” if he wishes to cling to any fading hopes of the GOP presidential nomination.

“All your advantages—your personality, your policy credentials, the importance of your state in Electoral College politics—won’t help you much if you don’t meet these basic qualifications,” Mann said. http://bobmannblog.com/

“Jindal knows Republican audiences in Iowa and elsewhere will pay him little mind if they learn about his fiscal recklessness,” he said. “So, he and Nichols tried to cover their tracks, including dishonestly blaming their budget deficit on state Treasurer John Kennedy.”

Jindal, of course, won’t address any of these issues. But were he of a mind to do so, he could even discuss on his Meet the Press appearance how he tried to frame Murphy Painter, former director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control after Painter refused to knuckle under to demands that he look the other way on behalf of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson over Budweiser’s application for an alcohol permit at Champion’s Square. He could tell how that effort backfired and the state was forced to pay Painter’s legal bills of some $300,000. But he probably won’t

He could discuss how he attempted unsuccessfully to circumvent state law and obtain a hefty $55,000 per year increase in pension benefits for his state police commander. But most likely, he won’t.

And he could disclose how much it has cost Louisiana taxpayers in terms of payroll, meals and lodging for state police security as he jets around the country in pursuit of his presidential aspirations. But don’t expect him to.

Yes, Jindal could discuss these and other matters during Sunday’s program, but he won’t.

The simple fact is, by virtue of his bottom-feeding position as the anchor in the GOP nominee sweepstakes, he just can’t afford to.

And saddest of all, no one on the program’s panel is likely to inquire about these issues.

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Our October fund raiser enters its final five days and we still need assistance to help us offset the cost of pursuing legal action against an administration that prefers to conduct its business behind closed doors and out of sight of the people to whom they are supposed to answer.

We also are launching an ambitious project that will involve considerable time and expense. If Gov. Bobby Jindal does seek higher office as it becomes more and more apparent that he will, the people of America need to know the real story of what he has done to our state and its people. Voters in the other 49 states need to know not Jindal’s version of his accomplishments as governor, but the truth about:

  • What has occurred with CNSI and Bruce Greenstein;
  • How Jindal squandered the Office of Group Benefits $500 million reserve fund;
  • The lies the administration told us two years ago about how state employee benefits would not be affected by privatization;
  • The lies about how Buck Consultants advised the administration to cut health care premiums when the company’s July report said just the opposite;
  • How Jindal attempted unsuccessfully to gut state employee retirement benefits;
  • How Jindal attempted to sneak a significant retirement benefit into law for the Superintendent of State Police;
  • How Jindal appointees throughout state government have abused the power entrusted to them;
  • How Jindal has attempted a giveaway plan for state hospitals that has yet to be approved by the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS);
  • How regulations have been skirted so that Jindal could reward supporters with favorable purchases and contracts;
  • How Jindal fired employees and demoted legislators for the simple transgression of disagreeing with him;
  • How Jindal has refused Medicaid expansion that has cost hundreds of thousands of Louisiana’s poor the opportunity to obtain medical care;
  • How Jindal has gutted appropriations to higher education in Louisiana, forcing tuition increases detrimental to students;
  • How Jindal has attempted to systematically destroy public education in Louisiana;
  • How Jindal has refused federal grants that could have gone far in developing internet services for rural areas and high speed rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans;
  • How Jindal has rewarded major contributors with appointments to key boards and commissions;
  • How Jindal attempted to use the court system to persecute an agency head who refused to knuckle under to illegal demands from the governor’s office;
  • How Jindal has manipulated the state budget each year he has been in office in a desperate effort to smooth over deficit after deficit;
  • And most of all, how Jindal literally abandoned the state while still governor so that he could pursue his quixotic dream of becoming president.

To this end, LouisianaVoice Editor Tom Aswell will be spending the next several months researching and writing a book chronicling the Jindal administration. Should Jindal become a presidential contender or even if he is selected as another candidate’s vice presidential running mate, such a book could have a national impact and even affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

This project is going to take time and involve considerable expense as we compile our research and prepare the book for publication in time for the 2016 election.

To accomplish this, we need your help.

If you are not seeing the “Donate” button, it may be because you are receiving our posts via email subscription. To contribute by credit card, please click on this link to go to our actual web page and look for the yellow Donate button: http://louisianavoice.com/

If you prefer not to conduct an internet transaction, you may mail a check to:

Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice

P.O. Box 922

Denham Springs, Louisiana 70727-0922

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Not only does Troy Hebert berate, intimidate, harass and even fire personnel, he keeps the pressure on even after they’re gone.

Hebert, director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, has already been shown to be an egotistical administrator who insists that his underlings rise and greet him with a cheery “Good morning, Commissioner,” whenever he enters a room.

He has contracted with 17-year-old girls in efforts to entrap bar owners into selling alcohol to underage patrons.

He has said he would rid his agency of all black employees and indeed, has already had to settle one lawsuit with an African-American former agent whom he fired and is currently facing litigation from three others.

He has ordered an investigation into the background of LouisianaVoice’s Editor and even boasted that he could have LouisianaVoice’s computer hacked if he so desired.

He even threatened criminal trespass charges against a woman who took his crippled Great Dane dog home in the belief it had been abandoned.

But most demeaning of all, he forced agents to write essays as punishment as if they were school children.

In short, he has run his agency with the impunity of an out of control despot, instilling fear in his staff…because he can. And he has done so without the slightest fear of restraint or discipline from his boss, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire, R-Anywhere but Louisiana).

Take the case of former agent Jeffery McDonald.

A veteran of 18 years in law enforcement, McDonald was summarily fired by Hebert for failure to answer charges against him that included a claim that his GPS indicated he was in one place for two hours when in fact he had been riding for five hours with another agent.

His fate was sealed, apparently, in a staff meeting in Baton Rouge when he disagreed with the ATC attorney who indicated she thought it unfair that ATC agents could have a take-home vehicle and she could not. Hebert at the time was attempting to institute a competition whereby top-rated agents would get a take-home vehicle. “They were pitting agents against each other in an unfriendly manner that was detrimental to morale,” McDonald said.

But prior to that, about two years ago, is when the real trouble started and typical Louisiana politics entered the picture.

McDonald and a Tensas Parish sheriff’s deputy raided a restaurant that was selling liquor without benefit of having obtained a permit to sell alcohol.

McDonald wisely turned the liquor over to the deputy for safekeeping at the sheriff’s office. Later, after a local mayor and a state legislator got involved, McDonald was contacted by his superiors and told “to return the evidence and to not file misdemeanor charges” against the owner of the establishment.

“I told them I didn’t have the liquor, that I had turned it over to the sheriff’s office,” he said.

State law says a law enforcement officer must be given 30 days in which to obtain legal counsel if he desires before his final termination. “But they didn’t do that,” he said. “They notified me on May 16 and ordered me to meet them on May 22 for an internal investigation,” he said. “I told them my attorney was out of town and I asked for a later meeting. I was on sick leave with a heart condition at the time. They never got back with me until they sent him his recommended termination notice on June 4. “It was hand delivered by state police on the 5th and they gave me until June 10 to respond but I was undergoing treatment was unable to respond by their deadline. They came to get my equipment on the 11th without providing the legally required seven days from receipt of notification,” he said.

“When they terminated me, they said I had not responded in a timely manner even though they did not give me the legally-required seven days.”

Frustrated with dealing with Hebert and his rules which seemed to change daily, McDonald put in for retirement. His retirement was approved on Aug. 22.

On Aug. 30, he wrote Hebert and the human resources departments of the Department of Revenue and ATC to request a retired ID commission card as allowed under state law.

A retiring agent is supposed to receive the commission upon retirement and McDonald did so eight days after his retirement went through.

Hebert, reportedly upset that McDonald was allowed to retire before he could fire him, has not responded to McDonald’s request.

Without his commission, McDonald cannot legally qualify to carry a firearm as a retired peace officer.

It’s not the first time a commission has been held up. Hebert’s policy regarding the commissions is all over the road; he issued one on the same day one agent retired while another who retired at the end of 2011 was forced to make several phone calls before getting his commission. A third waited eight months and before being given instructions to follow a vague, non-existent policy that including writing a letter to Hebert. Even after writing the letter and sending Hebert a copy of the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act which explains the right to the commission, it still took intervention on the part of a state senator to finally obtain the commission.

Such is the manner in which Troy Hebert runs his shop.

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The Jindal administration may have been thwarted in sneaking through an amendment giving State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson an extra $55,000 per year in retirement income but pay raises for at least 29 mostly unclassified employees could mean additional liabilities of $25 million to $42 million over 20-30 years for the Louisiana State Employee Retirement System (LASERS), LouisianaVoice has learned.

Even as merit pay increases for rank and file civil service employees has been frozen for the last five years, top tier employees, mostly unclassified supervisors and agency heads, have realized pay raises ranging from a one-year increases of 12.5 percent for the governor’s director of communications and 118.7 percent for the CEO of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) to nearly 127 percent for the press secretary for the Department of Health and Hospitals.

No fewer than 10 of the pay bumps not surprisingly benefitted gubernatorial appointees and employees in the office of Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire, R-Anywhere but Louisiana), who has devoted much of his time while in the state to firing state employees, slashing medical benefits and trying to destroy the state retirement system.

Retirement for state employees is computed by multiplying the average salary for the top three earning years times the number of years employed times 2.5 percent.

Thus, in the case of Susan West, who was promoted from State Risk Administrator at a salary of $83,200 in 2013 to the $170,000-a-year position as CEO of Group Benefits, her retirement, should she remain at OGB for three years, would be based on the higher amount, a difference of $86,800.

Thus, if she retires after 20 years at her present salary, she will receive 50 percent of $170,000, or $85,000 per year as opposed to $41,600—an additional $38,600 per year—had she remained at the $83,200 pay level. That would mean an additional $1.158 million in retirement income over 30 years.

In her case and in the cases of a few others, the salary increases were the result of major promotions but in others, pay increases went with lateral moves or new assignments and some of the other promotions would appear to be just for the purpose of implementing pay raises for favored employees.

In the case of 20 employees, the pay increases were $1,000 or more bi-weekly, or at least $26,000 a year while 10 others’ pay increases ranged from $500 to $999 bi-weekly, according to records obtained from the Office of Civil Service.

And it’s all legal—as opposed to the backdoor attempt the Edmonson to revoke his decision to enter the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), which locked in his retirement at his captain’s rank level when he entered DROP.

In that case, Jindal, his executive counsel Thomas Enright, State Sen. Neil Riser, Edmonson and his chief of staff, Charles Dupuy all appear to have conspired to sneak an amendment, aka the Edmonson Amendment, onto a law officer disciplinary bill on the final, hectic day of the legislature. The amendment sailed through both the Senate and House and Jindal promptly signed it into law only to have a state district judge rule the procedure unconstitutional.

By granting generous pay raises, a procedure known as pension spiking, retirement benefits are automatically ratcheted upward, even if the employees does not stay a full three years at the higher level.

If, for instance, an employee who made $75,000 two years in a row gets a $25,000 raise to $100,000 and stays for only an additional year, his retirement still goes up. Say the employee retires after 40 years. He automatically retires at 100 percent of his salary. Not the $100,000 level, but not the $75,000 level, either. Two years at $75,000 is $150,000. Add the one year at $100,000 and you get $250,000. Divide that by three years and his retirement is $83,000. So, by jacking his salary up by $25,000 for one year, he gets an additional $8,333 per year for the rest of his life.

In California, pension spiking could increase public pension costs as much as $796 million over the next 20 years the state controller said recently.

Besides West, here is pay raise information for a few other Louisiana employees since 2010:

  • Kathy Klebert, Assistant Secretary, Department of Health and Hospitals from July 1, 2010, to Jan. 21, 2011 at salary of $140,000; promoted to Deputy Secretary on Jan. 22, 2011 at salary of $145,000; named DHH Secretary on April 1, 2013, at salary of $236,000 upon resignation of Bruce Greenstein. Overall increase of 68.6 percent since 2010.
  • Ruth Johnson, former head of the Department of Children and Family Services—retired at salary of $130,000 per year on June 21, 2012, re-hired on May 27, 2013 as Director of Accountability and Research in the Division of Administration at $150,000; promoted to Assistant Commissioner on Sept. 30, 2013, at $170,000; promoted to Director’s title in the governor’s office on Feb. 24, 2014, at $180,000. Overall increase of $50,000 (38.5 percent) since June 21, 2010.
  • William Guerra, hired as State Budget Management Analyst 3 on May 3, 2010 at $48,500, promoted to Chief Operating Officer for the Office of Group Benefits on Feb. 20, 2014, at $107,000 per year, a four-year increase of $58,500, (120.6 percent).
  • Courtney Phillips, hired on Oct. 1, 2010, as a Program Manager 2 at a salary of $93,000, was named DHH Deputy Secretary at $145,000 per year on May 10, 2013, a three-year increase of $52,000 (55.8 percent).
  • William Jeffrey Reynolds, named DHH Medicaid Deputy Director on May 31, 2011, at a salary of $113,700, promoted to DHH Undersecretary on March 10, 2014 at $145,000, a three-year raise of $31,300 (27.5 percent).
  • Calder Lynch, hired on Oct. 25, 2010 as DHH Press Secretary at $52,000, on Aug. 26, 2013, was named Kleibert’s Chief of Staff at a salary of $118,000, a raise of $66,000 (126.9 percent).
  • Thomas Enright started on Mar. 8, 2010, as Executive Counsel for the Department of Veterans Affairs at $104,000 and on Feb. 4, 2013 was hired as Jindal’s Executive Counsel at $165,000, a $61,000 increase in only three years (58.7 percent).
  • Jane Patterson was an IT Telecommunications Technical Services Administrator on Nov. 18, 2012, at a salary of $126,000 and an IT Telecommunications Administrator on Oct. 1, 2013, at a salary of $131,500, a raise in less than a year of $4,900 (3.9 percent).
  • Christopher Guilbeaux was an $85,200-a-year Section Chief for the Governor’s Office of Home Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) on June 29, 2011. Two years later, on Oct. 1, 2013, he was a $130,000-a-year Deputy Director, a raise of $44,800 (52.6 percent).
  • Stephen Chustz was appointed as Section Head at the Department of Natural Resources on Aug. 9, 2012 at $129,200, up $25,600 (24.7 percent) from his $103,600-a-year salary as Deputy Assistant Secretary on Sept. 30, 2011.
  • Jerome Zeringue has gone from Deputy Director of the Governor’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority at $126,250 in July of 2011 to advisor to the governor at since last Feb. 28 at $160,000, a $33,750 (26.7 percent).
  • Thomas Barfield came on board as Jindal’s Executive Counsel in July of 2009 at $167,000 per year but by July of 2013, he was the $250,000 per year Secretary of the Department of Revenue (DOR), a three-year increase of $83,000 (49.7 percent).
  • What’s the difference between an Assistant Secretary and a Deputy Secretary? Apparently, about $19,100 a year. Jarrod Coniglio went from Assistant Secretary of DOR on Oct. 15, 2010 at $107,800 to Deputy Secretary on July 1, 2013, at $127,000 (a 17.7 increase).
  • In just over a year, Andrew Perilloux went from Assistant DOR (May 27, 2013) at $90,000 to Under Secretary on Aug. 18, 2014 at $107,800, an increase of $17,800 (19.8 percent).
  • Joseph Vaughn, Jr. was making of $69,000 on Jan. 29, 2012, as an Assistant Director of DOR and was named Assistant Secretary on Jan. 30, 2012 at a salary of $107,800, a raise of $38,800 (56.2 percent).
  • Noble Ellington (you remember him, the legislator who retired and went to work as Deputy Commissioner of Insurance) is making $162,100 in that position, up $6,200 (up 4 percent) from Oct. 1, 2012.
  • Kyle Plotkin, the New Jersey import started out in the governor’s office on Nov. 19, 2008 as Press Secretary and on July 26, 2011, was named Special Assistant to the governor at $85,000. Less than three years later, on Mar. 4, 2014, he was named Chief of Staff at $165,800, a three-year increase of $80,800 (95 percent).
  • Michael Reed of Boston began as an $80,000-a-year Deputy Director of Communications on Feb. 4, 2013 and a year later was Director of Communications at $90,000 (12.5 percent).
  • The difference between Administrative Assistant and Executive Assistant apparently is $24,000. Elizabeth “Lizzy” Rayford Bossier was making $30,000 on Sept. 10, 2012, as an Administrative Assistant in the governor’s office. By July 22, 2013, she was making $54,000 as an Executive Assistant, an increase of $24,000 (80 percent).
  • Melissa Mann has gone from Executive Assistant in the governor’s office in February of 2010, at $54,000 to Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs on March 3, 2014, at $95,000, a $41,000 (75.9 percent) increase.
  • Elizabeth Murrill went from being the governor’s Executive Counsel on Nov. 5, 2010, at $110,000 to Executive Counsel and Chief Texter for the Division of Administration on Oct. 16, 2012, at $165,000, an increase of $55,000 (50 percent).
  • Ileana Ledet was making $63,300 a Public Information Director 2 for the Department of Insurance (DOI) on Feb. 7, 2011, and on Oct. 1, 2013, whe was earning $127,400, an increase of $64,100 (101.3 percent).
  • Keith Lovell was making $83,300 as a Coastal Resources Scientist Manager for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in May of 2010, and by April 1, 2013, he was making $109,200 as Assistant Secretary of DNR, an increase of $25,900 (31 percent).
  • Barry Landry was making $70,000 a year as a Public Information Director 1 for the Department of Education (DOE) on Jan 27, 2014 and less than five months later, on June 2, was making $85,000 as Press Secretary, a $15,000 (21.4 percent) increase.
  • Marian Lee Schutte was making $60,000 as a Coordinator for DOE on Dec. 2, 2011, and on July 22, 2013, she was a director earing $75,000, an increase of $15,000 (25 percent).
  • Robert Keogh has been a Procurement Director for DOE’s Recovery School District (RSD) since June of 2012 but his salary has also jumped $15,000 (25 percent) in two years, from $60,000 to $75,000 on May 12, 2014.

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