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Archive for September, 2010

Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education doesn’t seem to be very smart. But don’t worry, he appears to have plenty company.

Paul Pastorek, originally appointed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco and retained by Bobby Jindal, is quick to blame the teachers of any school or school system that is shown to be failing.

But when test scores improve, guess who takes full credit? Okay, that was too easy.

But to repeat, he doesn’t seem to be very smart, especially for a lawyer, the occupational genus from which he was plucked to save Louisiana public education.

Taking the typical legal approach, Pastorek, without ever admitting actual culpability, earlier this month said he would repay the state $4,185 for dozens of private trips taken in a state vehicle by Paul Vallas, head the department’s Recovery School District. Both Pastorek and Vallas have insisted they were unaware that it was improper to take the Dodge Durango out of state on personal business, including several trips to visit family in Chicago. It was on one of the Chicago trips that Vallas wrecked the state car, the incident that led to the discovery of its out-of-state use.

What part of “improper use” don’t they understand?

In June, Higher Education Commissioner Sally Clausen resigned after it became public that she had furtively retired in August of 2009 without informing the Board of Regents, her bosses, only to be rehired after missing exactly one day of work. While entirely legal, the resulting flak caused her to become, in her own words, a “constant distraction.” The retire-rehire move netted her a $90,000 payout for unused sick leave and vacation time and entitled her to an annual pension of $146,400 on top of her regular salary.

It is still not certain as to who was responsible for “re-hiring” her. The Board of Regents is the hiring authority for the commissioner’s position and no member of the board has ever acknowledged knowing of her move in advance or indeed, for a full nine months after the fact. And she couldn’t very well re-hire herself, given the fact that she had resigned her position.

For questionable actions that may not necessarily be illegal but which have raised eyebrows for their apparent indiscretion, one need only pick a year. Take 2005, for example. In March of that year, Commissioner of Insurance Robert Wooley apparently felt his department needed a $40,000 special Harley-Davidson edition Ford truck, complete with heated seats, a camper package, diesel engine, red flames painted on the side, and a CD changer.

Wooley said he saw the vehicle on a car lot and wanted it so he traded in a year-old Eddie Bauer-designer edition Ford Expedition with only 30,000 miles on it. “I ain’t going to jail,” Wooley sniffed. “I sleep well every night.”

Edwin Edwards went to jail. So did former Commissioner of Elections Jerry Fowler and Commissioners of Insurance Sherman Bernard and Doug Green. Likewise Agriculture Commissioner Gil Dozier, three consecutive sheriffs in St. Helena Parish, and several judges in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Former Congressman William Jefferson appears headed for jail for corruption and Federal Judge Thomas Porteous just underwent a rigorous impeachment trial with the U.S. Senate expected to render its verdict by Thanksgiving. Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown also went to jail but on the flimsiest of charges, that of lying to the FBI in an informal interview.

Senator David Vitter and former Congressman Bob Livingston both became involved in extra-marital affairs. Vitter’s was with a prostitute and Livingston’s affair was revealed at the same time he was calling for Bill Clinton’s resignation over the president’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. Livingston subsequently resigned from Congress only to emerge as a major player among the K Street lobbyists in Washington.

Vitter was considered vulnerable until Chet Traylor, a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, decided to run against him and in so doing ended up making Vitter look good by comparison. Not only did Traylor have an affair with a Winnsboro legislator’s wife, but after they married and she later died, he began an affair with his stepson’s ex-wife. Traylor, who initially was considered a viable candidate, ended up with about 7 percent of the vote in the Republican primary.

In August, a federal jury in Shreveport convicted former State Senator Charles Jones of Monroe of tax evasion.

Just last week New Orleans Deputy Mayor Greg St. Etienne resigned. Hired by Mayor Mitch Landrieu to supervise the city’s chief financial office, he is accused of misuse of $500,000 in federal loans at a nonprofit organization he once ran.

Then there is Eddie Jordan, the man who put Edwin Edwards away.

Jordan, who succeeded Harry Connick as Orleans Parish district attorney, became embroiled in controversy almost from the day he took office. He summarily fired all his white assistant district attorneys who promptly filed suit. A jury found in favor of the fired workers and awarded them $3.7 million.

Jordan also came under heavy criticism for releasing suspects in high profile murder cases and in one instance, a suspect sought by police fled to Jordan’s home. In 2007, he released a suspect in the murders of five teenagers, saying that his office was unable to locate a key witness in the case. The New Orleans Police Department promptly produced the witness, who was in their custody all along. Later that same year, Jordan resigned.

But those are the high-profile cases. It’s those lawmakers and agency heads who try to fly just below the radar who sometimes are exposed as guilty of at least questionable behavior.

Whether it’s a legislator voting in favor of a bill that would benefit him financially or a pair of legislators swapping out Tulane scholarships in order to circumvent the prohibition against awarding the scholarships to family members, there are numerous conflicts of interest that often go unreported. Many public officials simply ignored that stipulation and put entire families through Tulane with the scholarships. (The families of former Crowley Judge Edmund Reggie and former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu come to mind.)

But what could any more of a conflict than a legislator’s making it a common practice to sue the state? It would be akin to a member of the board of Wal-Mart, IBM, or Exxon suing their companies on behalf of clients who walk in off the street.

It’s assumed that legislators take an oath to protect the state fisc, or treasury, but that almost seems mythical these days. But don’t try to tell State Sen. Rob Marionneaux (D-Livonia) that. Not only does he sue the state on a regular basis, but he recently found himself in hot water when he attempted to negotiate a settlement between LSU and his client, Bernhard Mechanical. The State Board of Ethics said Marionneaux told LSU representatives that Bernard would accept $7.1 million from LSU and that he would secure a legislative appropriation of an additional $5.5 million.

The board further said that Marionneaux violated the law by not notifying the board that he was representing Bernard Mechanical. Marionneaux countered by saying he was not required to do so. He elaborated by saying the reporting requirement does not apply to lawyers who are legislators.

In June, however, even as the ethics board was investigating him, Marionneaux attempted to slip language into a bill that would eliminate requirements that he disclose his representation of Bernard to the board. The bill failed.

Perhaps then, it should be no surprise that Pastorek, who said he gave permission to Vallas to use the vehicle on the trips, said of the repayment, “I don’t think legally, technically, I have to, but my feeling is we need to get this behind us and move forward.”

A legislative auditor’s report said Vallas, who doesn’t fly, used the state-owned SUV for dozens of visits to family in Illinois and along the Gulf Coast from the time he was hired in July 2007 through April 2009. Vallas admitted to auditors that 31 of his 41 trips out of Louisiana were not work-related.

Vallas no longer has a state vehicle. Instead, he has been given a $2,200 per month car allowance in addition to his $252,689 yearly salary.

Considering the number of trips taken and time away from the office for Vallas, plus repairs to the Durango, Pastorek may have gotten off light with paying $4,185 (gasoline alone should have exceeded that amount).

If that’s not sufficiently magnanimous of Pastorek, a week later he graciously declined a pay raise after receiving a favorable review of his job performance by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education but not before making it clear that he had earned the increase had he opted to take it.

It may have come as a surprise that he was even eligible for a pay increase when state classified workers were denied raises by the governor earlier this year. Pastorek, as a political appointee, is unclassified or non-civil service. His salary is $287,907, plus a housing allowance of $57,240 and a car allowance of $31,800. A 6 percent raise would have meant an additional $22,616 in annual compensation for Pastorek.

All things considered, it’s probably no surprise that a writer for the Chicago Tribune rated Louisiana worse than Illinois in public corruption.

Maybe new Southern University President Ronald Mason Jr. knew what he was doing when he brought his own lawyer onto the Southern payroll even as the university was laying off 50 employees.

Mason came to Southern from Jackson State University in Mississippi and brought both his Chief of Staff Evola Bates ($150,000 per year) and Executive Counsel Byron Williams ($120,000).

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When it comes to recession-proof employment, the best job in north Louisiana would appear to be a teaching position at one of Lincoln Parish’s two universities.

Between the two institutions, Tech and Grambling have over 200 teaching and support personnel knocking down $90,000 per year or more, according to information contained in the schools’ proposed budgets for 2010-2011.

Tech has 138 and GSU had 20 with salaries of $100,000 or more. Tech had 35 and GSU added eight more with salaries of between $90,000 and $100,000. Those numbers are exclusive of athletic department personnel, who added a few more to the totals at each school.

Over to the east, the University of Louisiana-Monroe had 40 positions listed in excess of $100,000 per year and 35 more between $90,000 and $100,000, the bulk of those in the School of Pharmacy.

Dan Reneau led the three university presidents with a salary of $350,000 and a car allowance of $7200 per year. Frank Pogue will be paid $200,000 at Grambling while his executive assistant will get $96,000. Reneau’s executive assistant is paid $113,220.

Stephen Richters, who assumed the presidency of ULM on Aug. 1, will draw a pro-rated salary of $166,267 based on a yearly salary of $252,886.

Enrollment figures for the three schools won’t be released until sometime in January, so overall budget requests, which are based in large part on enrollment and tuition, are speculative at best.

Tech’s total budget request is for $186.2 million, which is nearly $12 million more than last year’s budget of $174.5 million. Gov. Bobby Jindal has placed state universities on notice to prepare for further budget cuts of up to 35 percent.

Of the total budget request for Tech, nearly $41.1 million would be in state funds and another $45.7 would be in the form of student fees, including registration and tuition. The balance would come from interagency transfers and from self-generated revenue that would include endowments, grants, and non-resident fees.

Grambling is seeking a total budget of nearly $89.2 million, which would be about $270,000 less than last year. Of that amount, $18.2 million would be in state appropriations, $30.6 million in student fees, and $28.1 million in self-generated revenue.

As might be expected, Tech, with its quarter system, is the most expensive of the three schools but still far below the Southern and national averages in costs.

Tuition and registration at Tech is $1,213.25 per quarter for the fall, winter and spring quarters, for a total of $5,544 per year if a student does not attend summer school. University and student-assessed fees add another $634.75 for a total resident fee of $1,848 per quarter, not counting housing, meals and books.

ULM’s total resident fee is $2,317.65 per semester, or $4,635.30 total for the fall and spring semesters, while GSU’s resident fee is $2,214 per semester, or $4,428 for fall and spring semesters. Tuition and fees for all three schools is based on 12 or more semester credit hours (SCR).

Just in case you might be interested in what you’re paying for, here are the fees assessed by the university:

• Speech and Forensics Fee (Are they teaching how to speak CSI?);
• Alumni Support Fee (Shouldn’t alumni be supporting themselves, especially the Wyly brothers?);
• Student Center Fee;
• Student Newspaper Fee;
• Student Assistance Fee (Okay, so then if I need assistance, I have to pay?);
• Music Fee;
• Concert Fee (These aren’t the same?);
• Intramurals Fee;
• Academic Service Fee (I thought that was what tuition was);
• Assessment Fee (What?);
• Student Service Fee (I’d like an explanation, please);
• Student Government Fee;
• Student Union Board Fee (Someone please explain the difference between Student Government and Student Union Board);
• Student Recreation Facility Fee (Wouldn’t that be the same as Intramurals Fee?);
• Student Radio Station Fee;
• Student Library Fee;
• Student Accident Insurance;
• Technology Fee;
• Energy Surcharge;
Total University-assessed fee: $545.25 (based on 12 or more SCR);

• Student-assessed fees:
• Sports Club Fee (Again, wouldn’t that be the Intramurals Fee?);
• Health Fee (I’m just sayin’….);
• Parking/Campus Enhancement Fee (Parking? Are you kidding me?);
• Spirit Group Fee (What, pray tell, would this be?);
• Organization Development Fee (You’re putting me on, right?);
• Athletic Fee (So we can watch the Bulldogs get their teeth kicked in by Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU, et al?).

Total Student-Assessed Fees: $89.50 (based on 12 or more SCR).

Total fees (based on 12 or more SCR): $634.75 per quarter ($1,904.25 per year).

When I was a student at Tech, which admittedly was more than 40 years ago, I could go to school for an entire year on just one of today’s $634.75 quarterly fee assessments.

….And my first new car, right off the showroom floor, was $1600; gasoline was 30 cents per gallon, and I paid a whopping $11,000 for my first home–on a half-acre lot.

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Okay, buckaroos, it’s time for a departure from the serious business of Louisiana politics so that we may take a gander at the lighter side of Louisiana geography. I’m doing this with the following disclaimer: way back in high school, more than half-a-century ago, geography was my very least favorite social studies subject at Ruston High School.

Still, while our politics are so, shall we say, interesting, for lack of a more graphic description (this is, after all, a family post), it’s worth noting that our geography may be every bit as erratic, irrational, and completely devoid of any thread of common sense.

For example, the town of Franklinton is nowhere to be found in Franklin Parish. Franklinton is nestled in Washington Parish. But wait! The Town of Washington is in St. Landry Parish. So, where would one find the town of St. Landry? Where else but in Evangeline Parish? But the town of Evangeline is in Acadia Parish. Arcadia, not to be confused with Acadia, is in Bienville Parish. And even the Evangeline Oak is in St. Martin Parish.

It gets better. Vernon is not in Vernon Parish as one might expect; it’s in Jackson Parish. But Jackson is in East Feliciana Parish. Winnsboro is not in Winn Parish; it’s in Franklin Parish but Franklin is in St. Mary Parish. Likewise, Richland isn’t in Richland Parish. Alas, it, too, is in St. Mary.

One might think Madisonville would be in Madison Parish but one would be wrong; it’s in St. Tammany. Likewise, Plaquemine is not in Plaquemines Parish, but in Iberville. Union isn’t in Union Parish but St. James, and Union Hill is in Rapides. The town of Allen is in Natchitoches Parish, not Allen, and Port Allen is in West Baton Rouge. Well then, surely the town of Calcasieu is in Calcasieu Parish, right? Nope. It’s in Rapides. And Claiborne cannot be found in Claiborne Parish, but two parishes away and about 60 miles east, in Ouachita.

Of course, Natchez would be in the Magnolia State, right across the Mississippi River from Vidalia, right? Nope again. You’d have to travel nearly 100 miles due west to Natchitoches Parish to get to Natchez, Louisiana. Likewise, it only makes sense that Lake St. John would be in St. John the Baptist Parish, but it somehow ended up in Concordia Parish.

And Vidalia onions? Forget about it. They’re from Vidalia, Georgia, not Louisiana.

But in Louisiana, we have Winnsboro and Winnfield; Jonesboro and Jonesville; Springhill, Springfield, Spring Ridge, and Spring Creek. We have Summerfield and Summerville; Mandeville and Mansfield; Sun and Sunset. There’s a Start and a Quitman.

Try explaining to a stranger the difference between Pumpkin Center in Tangipahoa Parish and Punkin’ Center in Jackson Parish. Or Dry Creek and Dry Prong. Then there’s Greensburg, Greenwood, and Greenwell Springs; Dixie and Dixie Inn; Grand Cane, Grand Chenier, Grand Couteau, Grand Isle, Grand Prairie, and Grand Lake, for Pete’s sake.

There’s Good Hope and Goodwill; Gibsland and Gibson; Franklin and Franklinton (them again?); Bush and Bueche (yes, they’re pronounced the same); Center Point and Centerville; Forest and Forest Hill; Houma and Homer; Hicks and Hickory; Kelly and Kelleys; Leeville and Leesville; Mire and Mira; Allen and Port Allen; Union, Union Hill, and Unionville.

Only Louisiana would have one Whitehall in LaSalle Parish and another Whitehall in Livingston Parish. And of course, there’s a White Castle to go with the two Whitehalls. There’s also Woodhaven, Woodland, and Woodworth. We have Morgan City and Morganza; Midland and Midway; Martin and St. Martinville, and Sulphur and Port Sulphur.

Just across from the Little Hope Cemetery on LA. 4 in Bienville Parish is the community of Lucky. Next door in Webster Parish, near Minden, there is an exit off I-20. The exit sign directs motorists to “Goodwill Road” and “Ammunition Plant.”

And we don’t have a clue as to how many Oak Groves, Mt. Olives, Sibleys, and Antiochs there are scattered throughout Louisiana. And where in the world is Paincourtville?

If you’re not confused enough at this point, consider this:

Bossier City is not the government seat for Bossier Parish. That’s tucked away a few miles north in Benton. Likewise, Bienville is not the parish seat in Bienville Parish; it’s Arcadia (the same town that’s not in Acadia Parish). The village of Rapides is just up I-49 from the seat of Rapides Parish, Alexandria. Amite is the parish seat in Tangipahoa Parish, not Tangipahoa and St. James is not the seat of St. James Parish. That distinction belongs to Convent.

If, by now, you’re wondering what the point is to all this meaningless drivel, it’s this:

There’s a good reason why we’re last in everything good and first in everything bad in this state.

We don’t even know where the heck we are half the time.

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As the Jindal administration considers even more budgetary cuts—as much as 35 percent—in an attempt to offset the effects of an anticipated fiscal free fall estimated to be as much as $2 billion next year, the sacrificial lambs of higher education and health care are once again being led to the altar for the ritualistic bloodletting.

Meanwhile, as is usually the case when the legislature is faced with budgetary shortfalls, many other spending programs by lawmakers go on unabated. As puzzling as it must be to taxpayers constantly bombarded with bad news out of Baton Rouge, the elected representatives and senators just can’t seem to bring themselves to exercise the fiduciary discipline to keep reckless spending in check.

They are, to use a time-worn metaphor, the foxes guarding the henhouse.

A good example of the leadership void can be found in the way the legislators spend unexpected financial windfalls. When agencies fail to spend all of their budgets during a fiscal year, the excess funding reverts back to the state treasury where lawmakers are waiting like so many vultures to pounce on it for local pork barrel spending.

Take this year’s HB-76, the so-called “ancillary appropriations bill.” As soon as the extra money was “found,” legislators, instead of allocating all the new money to education and health care, poured $33 million into local funding projects like convention centers, municipalities and parishes, arts councils, councils on aging, and museums.

As irresponsible as all this may seem, it pales in comparison to what the state has spent on golf courses, baseball parks, and other recreational complexes down through the years.

Because figures prior to 1997 are unavailable, this post will address only those expenditures dating back to that year. But those 14 years should be sufficient for even the casual reader to detect a disturbing trend in spending priorities in this state.

Since 1997, the state of Louisiana, through the legislative process, has deemed it necessary to spend $141 million on golf courses.

One doesn’t have to be a math wizard to see that that averages out to $10 million per year. And that doesn’t include various university golf courses. These are private golf courses, one and all.

Another $18.5 million was spent during that same time frame on baseball parks, including nearly $4 million on a baseball stadium in Baton Rouge, which has no baseball team.

The real irony in all this can be found in two 2007 appropriations for the city of Westlake, near Lake Charles. That year, $6.12 million was appropriated in Priority 1 funding for golf course planning and development. That same year, $100,000 in Priority 2 funding and $800,000 in Priority 5 funding was appropriated for planning and construction of a new emergency response center for Westlake, which was putting up $900,000 in local matching funds.

The difference in Priorities 1, 2, and 5? Priority 1 means that the fund are virtually a certainty. Priority 2 means next year. Maybe. Priority 5 means lots of luck, you may get the money and you may not.

Over the 14 years in question, the Westlake golf club received nine separate Priority 1 appropriations totaling $37.96 million.

Not to be outdone, the Tournament Players Club in Jefferson Parish got seven separate appropriations totaling $48.2 million. City Park Golf Complex in New Orleans, with seven Priority 1 appropriations, got $33.8 million.

Other golf course expenditures included:

• $16.1 million for the England (Airpark) Golf Course in Rapides Parish;
• $600,000 for the Bayou Segnette Golf Course in Jefferson parish;
• $2.7 million for development of a golf resort at Toledo Bend;
• $2 million to promote the Audubon Trail golf courses in efforts to promote more rounds;
• $16,000 for the Delhi Municipal Golf Course;
• $301,000 for the Black Bear Golf Club at Poverty Point (part of the Audubon Trail);
• $250,000 for the 2002 Compaq Golf Tournament in New Orleans;
• $550,000 for junior golf facilities and the Fore Kids Foundation golf tournament;
• $250,000 for promotion of the Classic Foundation golf tournament in New Orleans;
• $1.7 million for the Louisiana Junior Golf Commission.

The state also spent an additional $5.25 million on the LSU golf course, part of which was relocating four holes on the course, money some might suggest would come from the LSU athletic department.

Of course, golf is not the only interest of the legislature. It also has appropriated funding for such projects as the Hot Air Balloon Championship in Baton Rouge ($50,000), the RedFish Tour ($75,000), the National Baptist Convention in New Orleans ($75,000), and the Bayou Classic football game between Southern and Grambling universities ($100,000), the Zephyrs’ baseball stadium in Jefferson Parish ($4.68 million over four years), a baseball complex for Iberia Parish ($7.34 million over eight years), improvements to a Baton Rouge baseball stadium with no tenant ($3.95 million over three years), construction of baseball fields at Negreet and Killian high schools ($35,000), and construction of a baseball-softball complex in Rapides Parish $2.73 million).

The Black Bear Golf Course at Poverty Point was constructed on private property owned by the Poverty Point Development Corp. under the auspices of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development as part of a retirement community developed by State Sen. Francis Thompson and his brother, Mike Thompson. Once completed, the golf course was donated to the Louisiana Office of Culture and Tourism with the proviso that a “professional manager” be appointed to administer the day to day operations of Black Bear. The manager appointed was Mike Thompson.

The Tournament Players Club Louisiana Golf Course (TPC) has proved to be the real money pit for the state. Promoted by Sen. John Alario of Westwego and developer Buckner Barkley, Jr., TPC has been a money loser from the outset. The course was developed in an effort to pull a major PGA tournament into Jefferson Parish.

The state, during the administration of Gov. Mike Foster, entered into an agreement with TPC and Marrero Land and Improvement Association whereby the state guaranteed a minimum number of rounds played. The rounds were required to be booked through New Orleans hotel concierges promoting the course. The hotel industry initially was not informed of the agreement and was unable to meet booking quotas.

The annual Zurich Classic is played at TPC and the fear was that it would lose the tournament and should that have happened, the property, with no professional tournament facilitator, would revert to Marrero Land. To avert that occurrence, the Superdome Commission and commission chairman Doug Thornton negotiated a new deal whereby the state would pay off TPC’s $10 million indebtedness and take ownership of the property in exchange for a six-year commitment from the PGA to keep the Zurich Classic there.

While some legislators maintain the state should not be in the golf business, proponents of the arrangement insist it is the best option for the state, that it is good for the economy.

Likewise, supporters claim that the golf courses, such as Black Bear, are good for economic development and make the state’s investments a good idea.

Manufacturing plants, Wal-Marts, and job-intensive industry also make good economic sense. So why doesn’t the state just go out and buy a dozen or so Wal-Marts, open a few car dealerships and manufacturing plants and give people jobs instead of taking over golf courses and putting a legislator’s relative in charge?

Don’t be surprised when next Spring, one of those tiny Smart Cars pulls up in front of the State Capitol and 144 clowns, complete with orange wigs, big shoes, red noses, seltzer bottles, pies, and horns, pile out, run up the steps of the Capitol and into the Senate and House chambers to call the 2011 legislative session into disorder.

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At a meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget during the legislative session earlier this year, House Speaker Jim Tucker popped in long enough to admonish fellow legislators (primarily state senators, it’s presumed) to “read the (state) Constitution.”

His remarks, however condescending they may or may not have been, were prompted by a running dispute he was having with Senate President Joel Chaisson in particular and the senate in general.

“Read the Constitution.” Terse, dramatic, patronizing. Exit left.

Now it turns out that Speaker Tucker might be advised to do some reading of his own.

Tucker, in a recent address in Monroe, blamed the Senate and Gov. Bobby Jindal for their failure to make deeper cuts in an attempt to mitigate next year’s anticipated $2 billion budgetary shortfall.

Speaking to the Monroe Chamber of Commerce on September 1, Tucker said of next year’s impending fiscal crisis, “We knew this was coming. We’ve been trying to manage this in the House for three years, but we were rebuffed by the Senate and the governor.

Tucker said the House had more significant cuts in the 2011 budget than the version ultimately approved after Jindal supported the Senate version, which, according to the House Speaker, used one-time money to postpone more severe cuts.

“So next year we’re going to deal with it as a crisis,” he said. “It’s not how I would have preferred to deal with it. I was disappointed, but we’ll deal with it as it comes.”

Perhaps Speaker Tucker should take his own advice and go back and read over HB 76 that passed the House by a vote of 88-0 and was signed by the governor as Act 41. HB 76, the ancillary appropriations bill, was the notorious bill that dumped some $33 million into local pork projects after additional funds were “found.”

Of that $33 million, Jindal managed to find 32 projects totaling less than $2.5 million that he could veto. Of the remaining $30 million-plus, $3.4 million was for local arts councils, $1.5 million was for local councils on aging, and another $12.8 million was appropriated for local parishes and municipalities, some of those with no explanation of how the money would be used. The City of Baton Rouge, for example, got two separate appropriations totaling $515,000 with no explanation of how the funds would be spent.

Of the appropriations for the councils on aging, $325,000 was for the Jefferson Council on Aging. Tucker is from Jefferson Parish.

The St. Landry School Board received $750,000 for “enhancements to public elementary and secondary education.”

The expenditures contained in HB 76, however, do not even approach the waste included in HB 1 (General Appropriations) and HB 2 (Capital Outlay).

Those two bills included, among other expenditures:

• $12 million for the Convention Center Complex in Shreveport;

• $6.1 million for the Baton Rouge Riverside Centroplex;

• $6.6 million for City Park Golf Complex in New Orleans;

• $6.12 million for golf course development in Westlake;

• $301,184 for Black Bear Golf Club at Poverty Point;

• $325,000 for promotion of the Audubon Golf Trail;

• $5,000 for the Delhi Municipal Golf Course;

• $200,000 for Junior Golf training facilities in Shreveport;

• $1.17 million for repairs to Zephyrs baseball facilities in Jefferson Parish;

• $17.5 million for professional sports facilities in Jefferson and Orleans parishes;

• $1 million for a recreational complex in Iberia Parish;

• $1.4 million for baseball stadium improvements in Baton Rouge.

Baton Rouge has no baseball team.

Is this House Speaker Jim Tucker’s idea of fiscal responsibility?

Read the bill, Mr. Speaker. Read the bill.

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