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Archive for March, 2015

 

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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My friend Walter Abbott up in Ruston seems to have a problem with any public employee as does, apparently State Rep. John “Jay” Morris, III (R-Monroe).

Abbott, as I, publishes a political blog and that certainly is his—or anyone’s—right. But the thing that he can’t seem to get around is his constant habit of labeling any public employee as a “deadhead.” In fact, he never refers to public employees, be they teachers, law enforcement officers, firemen, or highway construction crews, as anything but “deadheads.”

I’m not certain what Walter does for a living, but I would assume his work is essential and not of the “deadhead” status. But one can never be sure. Sometimes one creates a deliberate smokescreen (such as name-calling) as a tactic to deflect attention from himself. Again, I don’t know that, I’m just sayin’…..

Walter’s post today (March 31) provides a link to a story by Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Elizabeth Crisp which said that Louisiana college and university students plan to demonstrate at the state Capitol on April 15 as a protest to anticipated draconian cuts to higher education appropriations for the coming year.

But Walter, in his classic inimitable parsing of nomenclature, says in the headline to his blog: “Student Mob to Protest on Behalf of Deadheads.”

Student Mob? Seriously, Walter? You know with absolute certainty that these students will be roving bands of vandals, possibly armed, intent on rape and pillage and assorted other forms of crimes against humanity? Hell, Abbott, you’re better than the entire Justice League. Perhaps we need to make you an official state deadhead and bring you to Baton Rouge or New Orleans or Shreveport to fight crime—in advance with your gift of clairvoyance, of course. Which city? No problem; with your obvious skill at predicting the future, you need only tip off the deadhead law enforcement agencies in each city when a crime is about to take place.

And about that “deadhead” term you so love to toss around: I can only assume that you’ve drunk the Ted Cruz/Scott Walker/Rand Paul tea party Kool-Aid which finds all things public to be anathema.

In a previous blog you referred to teachers as “deadheads.” Well, Walt, unless I’m mistaken, a teacher taught you to read and write, which enables you to now turn on those same dedicated people by calling them “deadheads.”

Let me enlighten you about teachers, Walt, because you obviously do not know the facts or you choose to ignore them. Besides the problem that all teachers face, namely the constant push and pull from politicians who seem to think they have all the answers and rush in with ill-advised education “reform” measures, there are these specifics:

  • Kindergarten and elementary teachers: Not only must they teach, but they also have to do lesson plans, grade papers at night (after cooking for the family and cleaning house and helping their own kids with homework), contend with kids who can’t keep up in class because their lazy or irresponsible, drug-addled parents won’t take the initiative to help the kids at home, then attempt to appease those same parents who want to shift the blame for the kids’ poor grades onto the teacher. They daily see these same children come to school hungry or unbathed—or both. In addition to all these duties is the constant paperwork that must be filled out by teachers and as they perform all these tasks, they often are called upon to wipe snotty noses and wipe soiled behinds. Summer vacation? Fugetaboutit. That three-month vacation you always hear about is a myth. When school is out, classrooms must be cleaned, books put away, furniture stacked against the wall so janitorial crews can move in to do their jobs and by the time all that is done, it’s time to start planning the new school year.
  • Middle school teachers: One might think that middle school is a breeze but this is where kids grow into puberty, where cliques are formed and where little teen-age girls snipe at each other behind their backs. It ain’t pretty. As these children grow from adolescence into teens, attitudes are formed and teachers must deal with that reality on a daily basis. Moreover, remember those kids from elementary school who were lagging behind? Well some of them are older than their classmates because sadly, they had to be held back one or more grades. But they’re falling even further behind and it becomes the middle school teacher’s task to confront angry parents who won’t accept their own role in educating their own children. And that paperwork didn’t go away in elementary school. Neither do the late night paper grading sessions.
  • High school teachers: By now, the slower students have become a real challenge. Not only do they refuse to do their assignments and fall even further behind before eventually dropping out of school (and teachers consider every dropout a personal loss, some might even say a failure). But those who remain have by now developed really nasty attitudes (often encouraged at home by parents who still refuse to accept responsibility) and teacher-student confrontations often occur that sometimes become physical, placing the teacher in danger of bodily harm.

So there you have your teacher “deadheads,” Walt. But you know what? Through it all, they persevere at salaries most likely considerably less than what you make, because teaching is not an occupation, it’s a calling, and these educators are dedicated to that calling—something you obviously do not comprehend or care to.

But Walt insists on attaching that label to all public employees. Well, Walt, I was one of those “deadheads” for 20 years, working as a claims adjuster for the Office of Risk Management.

And being completely candid, I was far from being the best adjuster in the office (even though I was once told that I was by a member of management in his somewhat feeble effort at blowing smoke up my toga—some form of weird motivation, I suppose) but despite my many shortcomings (I love writing more than insurance), I still managed to help save the state several millions of dollars in bogus claims. To that end, despite my habitual failure to keep my diary updated and my distaste for insurance, I still managed to justify my salary many, many times over.

Finally, Walter, I would ask that you consider this in the future when dealing with these “deadheads”:

  • When you find a pothole in your street that tears up your vehicle’s front end, call a tea partier, not the highway department—they’re deadheads;
  • Same thing when you observe litter along the streets and highways;
  • When your sewer line backs up because of a lack of maintenance because the deadheads have been laid off, call a tea partier;
  • When you discover rust and other substances in your water line for that same reason, call a tea partier;
  • When your neighbor knocks down your fence and refuses to pay for it, don’t bother filing suit. Those courtroom employees, including the judge, are deadheads. Call a tea partier.
  • When your house catches fire, don’t call the fire department. They’re just a bunch of deadheads. Call the tea partiers;
  • When you or a family member is being assaulted by some thug, the police department, staffed with deadheads, is obviously the wrong call. The tea party will set things right for you.

Count on it.

As for Rep. Morris, his recent comments constitute a classic example of shooting the messenger.

He, like Jindal’s former chief of staff, now president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), Stephen Waguespack (the same one who leaned on Murphy Painter to ignore Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control regulations in that issue over the Budweiser tent at Jindal contributor Tom Benson’s Champion’s Square), doesn’t feel that Bob Mann retains the right of free speech under the First Amendment simply because he’s on the payroll of LSU.

Rep. Morris, you are an attorney and as such you of all people should be at the front of the line to defend that right. Instead, you choose to jump into the fray based on another blog, that of Scott McKay’s The Hayride. http://thehayride.com/2015/03/twitter-tough-guy-bob-mann-takes-on-labi-over-waguespacks-column/

McKay and Morris wax indignant that Mann has the audacity to write—on his own time—a column for the New Orleans Times-Picayune while teaching (this semester) one class because of the necessity to care for his wife who is ill.

Of all things, Morris chooses to compare Mann’s salary to that of a public school teacher who he says works for a paltry $32,000 a year. Well, isn’t it in the legislature’s power to increase those salaries? Has Rep. Morris ever, even once, made a move to raise the pay for teachers? Or instead, was he one of 53 House members who voted to kill House Bill 645 by Rep. Marcus Hunter (D-Monroe) to raise the state minimum wage? See for yourself: HB 645 VOTE

Rep. Morris, you can’t have it both ways: you can’t use teachers’ salaries against Bob Mann if you’ve never attempted to rectify the gaping disparity yourself. That comes under the heading of hypocrite. Don’t be so smug in jumping on Mann’s case as a means of questioning LSU’s budget while defending NLU perhaps because some of that university’s employees might be your constituents whom you don’t want to offend.

Rep. Morris asks the rhetorical question: “How are we polititians (sic) supposed to raise revenue to save higher ed when there might be a whole lot of waste?” Shouldn’t that be a question for you, as a representative of the people, to sort out? Have you and other legislators been asleep at the wheel so long that waste occurs right under your collective, oblivious noses?

If you are so concerned about waste, don’t you think it might have been a good idea for you to have checked the campaign expenditures of Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge) before you contributed $1,000 to his campaign, and who in turn contributed $1,000 to the campaign of Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales)? Do you really think their expenditures of $15,405 and $9,660, respectively, to purchase of LSU football and softball tickets from 2010 through 2014 was the most judicious use of their campaign funds? Could that perhaps be included in your sanctimonious, somewhat selective definition of waste?

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS:

Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. JOHN C JAY MORRIS III FOR STATE REP  2705 OAK DR MONROE, LA 71201 CONTRIBUTION 6/28/2012 $1,000.00
Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay FRIENDS OF ERICH PONTI CAMPAIGN Thibodeaux Ave Baton Rouge, LA 70806 CONTRIBUTION 11/14/2011 $1,000.00

CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES:

Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS PO BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70894-5905 TICKETS 5/13/2014 $3,310.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA 2012 FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS/PARKING 4/20/2012 $3,130.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ATHLETIC ADMINISTRATION BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 5/5/2013 $3,110.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS c/o Speakers’ Office LA State Capital Baton Rouge, LA 70801 2010 Legislative Football Tickets 4/21/2010 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 4/26/2011 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 6/6/2011 $950.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA LSU FOOTBALL TICKETS 1/4/2012 $905.00
Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ALTHLETIC BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 TICKETS 4/11/2014 $3,210.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 TAFT donation and tickets 5/23/2012 $3,135.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 tickets 5/22/2013 $3,115.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSUE SOFTBALL 2048 JOHNSON HWY EUNICE, LA 70535 DONATION 12/3/2014 $200.00

We’re just saying people who live in glass houses…

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By Robert Burns (Special to LouisianaVoice)

LouisianaVoice readers may recall a December 15, 2014 post outlining state defense attorneys desperately fighting to block a deposition of Stephen Russo,  Secretary of the State Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), to be conducted by Lewis Unglesby, lead plaintiff attorney in the Client Network Services Inc. (CNSI) civil lawsuit against the state.  CNSI alleges that Gov. Jindal’s office, in “consultation” with AG Caldwell’s Office, unjustly cancelled its contract to provide Medicaid processing services to DHH after news of a federal grand jury having convened to consider potential improprieties in the awarding of the contract broke.  The federal grand jury probe went nowhere, but Caldwell nevertheless continued a probe with a state grand jury.  Ultimately, that state grand jury indicted former DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein for nine counts of alleged perjury entailing testimony to that grand jury or statements made at his senate confirmation hearing.

At that December hearing, Judge Kelley ruled that Russo could be deposed and that any attorney-client privilege had clearly been waived.  The AG’s Office filed an immediate appeal writ with the First Circuit (notwithstanding the fact Judge Kelley stated, “There’s nothing to appeal because this matter is clear,”).  The First Circuit upheld Judge Kelley’s ruling and denied the appeal.  During that December hearing, Unglesby stated AG Caldwell’s Office had “quite likely acted illegally” in publicly releasing Greenstein’s grand jury testimony.  A hearing to quash that testimony transpired in Greenstein’s criminal trial on March 20, 2015.

At that hearing, Greenstein criminal defense attorney, John McLindon, argued for protection of the grand jury “body” not only for the Greenstein case but for all future criminal trials.  He stated that denying his motion to quash the grand jury testimony would send a horrible signal that grand jury secrecy was a “sham” in Louisiana.  He also stated that AG Caldwell’s Office essentially engaged in an ex-parte maneuver in that the AG’s motion to file the grand jury transcript into the public record was “buried” at the end of the order.  McLindon also argued that David Caldwell had been deceptive in describing the motion in court on the day it was presented as a “routine procedure” to enable McLindon to obtain a copy of the testimony, which McLindon indicated he was entitled to anyway.  Judge Daniel ruled that the AG’s office acted properly in filing the transcript into the public record, but McLindon indicated he may likely appeal Judge Daniel’s ruling.

Louisiana Voice has now reviewed extensive court filings in the civil case in which CNSI attorneys lodge even more allegations of serious wrongdoing on the part of Caldwell’s Office.  Those allegations entail the testimony of CNSI whistleblower Stephen Smith.

Smith is the CNSI employee who sent an anonymous email to Jeffrey Branch with the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) under the alias of “Kunego.”  The email was sent sometime after a meeting which Smith had with Norm Nichols, President of Molina Medicaid Services, and the company which has managed Louisiana’s Medicaid processing for decades and which filed a protest after CNSI won the contract.  Smith testified that Nichols indicated that, although Molina lost the protest, “there were still things in the process that were questionable.”    Smith has moved on to Orlando, Florida where he serves as Vice President for Sellers Dorsey, LLC, which is a health policy consulting company.

On May 1, 2014, CNSI attorneys conducted a video deposition of Smith in Orlando.  During the deposition, Unglesby presented Smith with a copy of what the AG had supplied as the “Kunego report.”  That report, which was filed under seal soon after CNSI’s lawsuit was initiated, contained notations of AG investigator Scott Bailey’s interview of Smith (but identified as “Kunego”) on May 10th and May 11th of 2012.  Unglesby then asked Smith to take a pen and underline those portions of the interview notes for which he wished to claim were his words and recollections of the interview and to refrain from underlining those items for which he did not wish to assess as having originated from him.  As readers can readily tell from reading the 7-page report, Smith was only willing to claim responsibility for between 50-60% of it as evidenced by what is underlined.  Nevertheless, the report contains some rather intriguing allegations, not the least of which is contained on page five.  On that page, the report states:  “Bobby Jindal has what Kunego calls an India to India ancestor driven background and network of connections that brought CNSI and Jindal together.”

The deposition continued for an extended period, so the parties agreed to recess and reconvene on a later date, which turned out to be July 8, 2014.  Upon reconvening the deposition, Unglesby made an inquiry of Smith regarding whether he’d had any communication with anyone from the AG’s Office.  Smith responded that Scott Bailey, the AG investigator who had interviewed him for the Kunego report, had telephoned him twice and had flown to Orlando to meet with him on June 28, 2014.  Smith indicated that Bailey stated that he needed to clarify the timeframe of the meeting with Nichols and also to inform him that the AG’s office had provided CNSI attorneys with the “wrong version” of the Kunego report.  Smith testified that Bailey informed him that, on May 1, 2014, he’d been provided with the “unedited” Kunego report when he should have been provided with the “edited” report, which is the report the AG’s Office intended to supply to CNSI attorneys.

Smith then explained that the unedited report, which CNSI attorneys provided at the May 1, 2014 deposition, was what had confused him so much because it had statements in the report which he knew he hadn’t made and therefore caused confusion as to how such statements were in a report of an interview of him.  When Unglesby pressed Smith on whether he asked Bailey how such allegations, including that of Jindal’s “India to India ancestor driven background” and that being responsible for bringing CNSI and Jindal together, got in his interview report, Smith indicated that he did not press Bailey for any explanation.

CNSI attorneys, upon learning of these phone conversations between Bailey and Smith, the in-person meeting between the two on June 28, 2014, and the fact that two reports of Smith’s interview responses even exist, prompted strong accusations of witness tampering on the part of AG Caldwell’s Office.  CNSI attorney Michael McKay of the law firm Stone Pigman, in a Motion to Conduct Discovery Regarding Certain Activities of the AG’s Investigator, accuses AG investigator Scott Bailey of “outrageous witness tampering,” and seeks to depose Bailey about his conduct and actions and also have the AG surrender documents, including the “edited” Kunego report, which were shared between Bailey and Smith, along with documents and dates of correspondence between Smith and Nichols.

CNSI attorneys allege that the AG’s Office filed the “unedited” version of the “Kunego report” under seal with the full knowledge that it contained material not attributable to Smith as a means to “influence the public” and to justify a six-month stay being sought by the AG’s Office for all proceedings.  Although the motion to stay was denied (and the First Circuit upheld the denial on June 7, 2013), the AG’s Office filed a motion to limit discovery and a motion for Judge Kelley to recuse himself on the basis Unglesby had previously represented him.  Judge Caldwell denied the recusal motion on July 1, 2013; however, Judge Kelley granted a motion to stay all proceedings on July 30, 2013.  CNSI attorneys asserted that Kelley’s decision was based largely on the “unedited” Kunego report which they contended the AG’s Office knew full well contained material not supplied by Smith and for which the foundation is unknown.  CNSI attorneys also expressed frustration that, as of the date of their filing, August 22, 2014, they still had not been provided with the “edited” Kunego report.

The hearing on CNSI’s motion to depose Bailey was argued before Judge Kelley on October 7, 2014, and he granted the motion.  At a bare minimum, CNSI attorneys have already exposed a high level of ineptitude on the part of AG Caldwell’s Office in that it provided the wrong “version” of the Kunego report given how critical that report is to both the civil and criminal trials.  It is mind boggling that a document that critical wouldn’t be triple checked as being the one the AG’s Office wanted to ensure CNSI attorneys received.  The mere fact they would later have to admit to Smith that “we gave the CNSI attorneys the wrong version” speaks volumes as to the AG Office’s ineptitude.  Of course, as CNSI attorneys argued in their support memorandum, it begs the question as to why two versions of the report even exist at all.

It remains to be seen how successful CNSI’s attorneys may be in exploiting their allegation of witness tampering by the AG’s Office.  Obviously, their ultimate goal is to have Smith’s testimony at trial declared inadmissible based on inconsistency and the actions of AG Caldwell’s Office.  If they succeed, a huge defense to CNSI’s alleged wrongful contract termination may go by the wayside and expose Louisiana taxpayers to a substantial monetary award.  Further, if Smith’s testimony is ruled inadmissible, a spillover benefit to Greenstein’s criminal trial may also arise.

When combined with the recent scathing WWL investigative report on AG Caldwell, one can only question if the biggest beneficiary of all of the extensive focus of the ineptitude and controversies of Gov. Jindal has been AG Caldwell himself.  It certainly appears that for an extended period, he was able to fly below radar on his office’s ineptitude and potential serious wrongdoing.  Perhaps recent revelations of his actions may provide an excellent source of campaign fodder for the October election for Louisiana’s next attorney general.

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prevaricator

[pri-var-i-key-ter] /prɪˈvær ɪˌkeɪ tər/

noun

  1. a person who speaks falsely; liar.
  2. a person who speaks so as to avoid the precise truth; quibbler; equivocator.

Bobby Jindal loves to throw around the “L-word.”

So much so that we at LouisianaVoice are beginning to let it creep into our vocabulary when writing about Bobby.

Of course, his “L-word” and our “L-word” have completely different meanings.

For him, it’s invoked when reacting to the “Liberal” media’s calling him out on his claims of being the savior for Louisiana’s health care, education, economy, ethics and general well-being.

For us, the “L-word” denotes Liar, as pathological Liar.

A pathological liar is defined as an abnormally habitual liar, or a person who lies to the point that it is considered a disease or condition. That would be Bobby Jindal, the man who took ideas from medical experts when he headed up the Department of Health and Hospitals, implemented those ideas and called them his own.

Before you get the wrong idea, we don’t reside in a dream world where the sun is always shining and the grass is always green. We know politicians lie. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards once said it went with his job.

We understand that just as we can predict that in the upcoming gubernatorial election, one of the candidates is certain to stretch the truth a bit by claiming that then-State Rep. David Vitter’s vote against tabling House Bill 1013 way back in 1993 was because he supported gay rights. https://louisianavoice.com/

Anyone who knows Vitter knows better than that (maybe hooker rights, but that’s another story for another day). His voting not to table the bill that would have made it illegal for employers or insurers to discriminate based on sexual orientation was merely an effort to keep the bill alive for full floor debate where it was certain to have been defeated.

But Bobby Jindal elevates lying to an art form At least he tries to, but his prevarications are so disingenuous as to appear laughable—except the joke is on us.

Take that letter that Jindal recently wrote to the New York Times http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/bobby_jindal_defends_his_recor.html#incart_river  in response to the paper’s editorial about governors being unable to hide from their records http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/opinion/sunday/governors-can-run-but-they-cant-hide.html?_r=0 and the column about the Jindal implosion http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/23/opinion/charles-blow-gov-jindals-implosion.html by  Times writer Charles Blow who just happens to be from the north Louisiana town of Gibsland and who was a Grambling State University honor graduate.

In that letter, Jindal repeated the claim that he had cut the state payroll by “30,000 workers.”

Liar.

The Louisiana Office of Civil Services issues monthly layoff reports and contained in that monthly report is a year-by-year accounting of the number of civil service positions eliminated and the number of employees laid off. February 2015 Layoff Report

Since Fiscal Year 2008, which began six months prior to Jindal’s taking office in January of 2008, through the end February 2015, there have been a grand total of 13,577 positions eliminated and 8,396 employees laid off. The difference is apparently 5,181 eliminated positions were already vacant and simply not filled. Taking either number, you have far fewer than half the 30,000 claimed by Jindal.

“This fiscal responsibility resulted in eight straight upgrades by the major credit agencies,” he said in his letter, while neglecting to mention that two major rating agencies, Moody’s and Stand & Poor’s recently moved the state’s credit outlook from stable to negative while threatening the more severe action of a downgrade. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/02/14/two-major-investment-rating-firms-downgrade-louisiana-to-negative-state-is-now-officially-at-the-financial-end-game/

“And what did lower taxes do for our economy? They spurred growth,” he said. “Louisiana now has higher incomes…”

Liar.

The state’s per capita income while increasing 1.1 percent from 2012 to 2013, has actually decreased overall since 2008 and continues to lag nearly $3,500 behind the national average while the median family income decreased by more than $2,500 and trailed the national median family income by more than $8,000. http://www.deptofnumbers.com/income/louisiana/

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/09/louisiana_ranks_poorly_on_late.html

Were it not for Mississippi and the District of Columbia, Louisiana’s poverty rate (by household income) of 18.3 percent would be the highest in the nation. (Mississippi’s poverty rate is 20.1 percent and D.C. has a poverty rate of 20.7 percent.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_poverty_rate

Moreover, our already stratospheric poverty rate is continuing to rise. http://www.labudget.org/lbp/2013/09/poverty-on-the-rise-in-louisiana/

“…more jobs…”

Liar.

The February unemployment rate for Louisiana (the latest figures available) was 6.7 percent, compared to 5.5 percent for the rest of the country. The rate was 4 percent when Jindal took office but three years into his first term, the rate had risen to 8 percent before dropping below 6 percent in 2014 and spiking again this year. http://www.deptofnumbers.com/unemployment/louisiana/

“…and more people than we’ve ever had in the history of our state.”

Perhaps, but when those who were evacuated to other states in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita return, that does not signify population growth. That’s just folks coming home after a hiatus of a few years.

But no matter. Jindal long ago staked out his position on immigration reform. http://www.ontheissues.org/Governor/Bobby_Jindal_Immigration.htm

But while he is claiming “more people than we’ve ever had in the history of our state,” he may wish to take a closer look at what the numbers mean.

Yes, it’s true that the state’s population grew by 64,396 (an increase of 1.44 percent from 2000 to 2010). But the state actually lost 20,426 (-.47 percent) in the number of residents “not Hispanic or Latino origin” while registering a gain of 84,822 (78.7 percent increase) in the number of people of “Hispanic or Latino origin.” http://censusviewer.com/state/LA

How’re you gonna square those numbers with your stand on immigration reform, Bobby? You can’t very well boast of population growth and decry the influx of Hispanics in the face of those facts.

“A larger gross domestic product…”

Shoot, on this we don’t even beat Mississippi. Of the 12 states in the Southeast Region, our GDP ranks eighth and barely nudges out Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina. http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_state/2014/gspSE_glance.htm

Back in February, Jindal told a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor that Louisiana’s higher education budget “is actually a little bit, just slightly, higher than when I took office.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/02/11/jindals-claim-that-louisianas-higher-education-budget-is-slightly-higher/

“Wait. Wha…?

LIAR!

No, Bobby, that’s a DAMN LIE!

Anyone who can make that claim with a straight face has some serious mental issues of either being unable to separate face from fantasy or of just being unable to tell the truth—even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Even the Washington Post, for whom he often pens his op-ed pieces when not stumping for the Republican presidential nomination, called him out on that one. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/02/11/jindals-claim-that-louisianas-higher-education-budget-is-slightly-higher/

Remember when Jindal promised that premiums for the Office of Group Benefits would not increase and benefits would not decrease under his privatization plan?

Liar.

And remember how he told us that health care for the state’s poor population would actually improve and the state would save millions by jettisoning those burdensome state hospitals?

Liar.

Team Jindal moves toward developing a medical corridor along Bluebonnet Boulevard and Essen Lane in South Baton Rouge while creating a medical wasteland north of Government Street (thereby protecting medical care for the affluent population but not so much for the poorer, largely black population of North Baton Rouge). Baton Rouge General Mid City (north of Government by a couple of blocks), as part of that plan, is being forced into closing its emergency room facilities next week and there’s good reason to expect similar crises at private hospitals in Lake Charles, Shreveport and Monroe. In fact, the problems are already starting in Shreveport. http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268748/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=6CI2I0hA

And, of course, there was Jindal’s claim of the infamous “no-go” zones in England in the face of all those apologies by Fox News for initiating the story.

Liar.

It appears Bobby made that claim purely for the sake of political expediency, the worst reason of all. http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/19/politics/jindal-no-go-zones-london/

Jindal, of course, did that major flip-flop on Common Core and is somehow managing to link the Common Core to the radical teaching of American history at the cost of something called “American exceptionalism.”

Liar.

So you’ve changed your position on Common Core. But you overlooked (deliberately, we strongly suspect) one minor detail: Common Core deals only in math and English, not history. http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/02/06/bobby-jindal-what-happens-when-we-stop-teaching-american-exceptionalism-to-our-students/

Finally, there is the biggest Lie of all:

“I have the job I want.”

LIAR!

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Troy Hebert is nothing if not:

  1. inconsistent
  2. obfuscating
  3. controversial
  4. all the above

Hebert, Bobby Jindal’s brilliant (sarcasm, folks, sarcasm!) choice to succeed former Director of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Murphy Painter after Team Jindal set Painter up on bogus criminal charges, has stumbled into one administrative fiasco after another.

In fact, the manner in which Hebert has run his office might even be considered a microcosm of the Jindal administration, so frighteningly reminiscent is it to the way he seems to emulate his boss.

Just as Jindal attempted (unsuccessfully) to flex his muscles (figuratively, of course; it be absurd to suggest otherwise) after Painter refused to knuckle under to demands from former Chief of Staff Steve Waguespack that a permit be issued to Budweiser to erect a tent at major Jindal campaign donor Tom Benson’s Champion’s even though Budweiser had not met the legal permit requirements, so has Hebert attempted to destroy the careers of agents serving under him for reasons that consistently failed to rise above the level of political pettiness.

Jindal, who accused Painter of abusing his office, apparently overlooked the fact that Hebert, while serving in the Louisiana Legislature, nevertheless saw nothing wrong with working under a state contract for debris cleanup after Hurricane Katrina.

Not only was Painter acquitted in his federal criminal trial, but he then sued his accuser in civil court—and won.

Likewise, Hebert has been sued by former agents for racial discrimination and has been forced to settle at least one such claim. Other complaints are pending as this is being written. Part of the basis for those complaints was Hebert’s confiding in Tingle that he was “going to f**k with” two black agents and that he intended to break up the “black trio” in north Louisiana—in reference to agents Charles Gilmore, Daimian McDowell and Bennie Walters.

And in the case of Brette Tingle, Hebert went to the extreme of attempting to get three different agencies to say there was a criminal payroll fraud case against Tingle—and in each case he failed to get his needed approval. Tingle’s sin? He was listed as a witness for the three black agents who have lodged EEOC complaints against Hebert. That left Hebert with only one logical course of action (logical in Hebert’s mind, that is). He fired Tingle while Tingle was recuperating from a heart attack.

ATC employees Terri Cook and Sean Magee tracked GPS locations of agents and emailed agents and their supervisors on a daily basis so that any issues, discrepancies or inconsistencies raised by the GPS reports could be addressed in a timely manner.

Yet, despite Hebert’s claims that Tingle was not working when he said he was or that he made an unauthorized trip into Mississippi, the issues were never raised by Cook or Magee, according to Tingle’s attorney J. Arthur Smith.

In fact, Smith pointed out that Tingle traveled to Kiln, MS. On May 2, 2012—at Hebert’s express approval—“to obtain surplus gun cleaning kits from his (Tingle’s) Coast Guard unit which were then issued to agents in your (Hebert’s) presence at a meeting at the Baton Rouge ATC headquarters with all enforcement agents as well as business division employees present.”

Smith also said that Tingle “was assigned FDA compliance checks (for tobacco sales to minors) while out on sick leave.” Upon his return to work, Mr. Tingle informed (Hebert) that he could not complete the assigned compliance checks because of other collateral duties which Hebert had assigned him. “These collateral duties included meeting with Trendsic Corp. and newly hired IT employee Keith McCoy to discuss several ideas that Mr. Tingle brought to you and that you wanted implemented before Mr. Tingle left on military leave.

“In this conversation,” Smith continued in his March 10 letter to Hebert, “you instructed Mr. Tingle to ‘get someone else to do those checks.’ Mr. Tingle also served a hearing officer and Internal Affairs Investigator for the ATC. These collateral duties, as well as your special assignments to him, were not part of Mr. Tingle’s regular job duties. You never at any time excused Mr. Tingle from performing these additional responsibilities,” he said.

Moreover, Smith noted, Tingle, Hebert initiated reprisals against Tingle because of statements provided by Tingle in a federal EEOC racial discrimination action filed against the ATC and Hebert even though Tingle “received the highest marks on his annual performance evaluation of all ATC enforcement agents. You signed this evaluation in July 2012,” Smith said.

That same month Hebert contacted Tingle, who was on vacation, by telephone in July of 2012, Smith said, to inquire into specifics concerning programs and initiatives that were part of an ATC pilot program for the New Orleans area initiated by Tingle. Upon learning of Tingle’s participation as a witness in the discrimination matter, however, Hebert claimed on Oct. 4, 2012, that Tingle had committed payroll fraud and further told OIG investigators that no such pilot program existed, according to Smith’s letter to Hebert.

The pilot program, Tingle said, involved programs not being done in other parts of the state. For example, a plan promoted by the AARP to improve blighted areas. ATC, he said, worked with AARP to provide alternative business plans to bar owners who have had their licenses suspended or revoked.

Hebert and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu held a joint press conference in July of 2012 to announce the program that Tingle initiated. http://www.nola.gov/mayor/press-releases/2012/20120717-mayor-landrieu-and-atc-commissioner-troy/

It was during this press conference that Hebert called a vacationing Tingle for information on the pilot program.

Tingle said Hebert has never followed through on any of the facets of the program.

In mid-January of 2013, Hebert launched an investigation into Tingle’s wife, Traci Tingle, who had recently retired from ATC, claiming that she had falsified state documents and that she had released personnel records to someone outside ATC.

The nature of the personnel records Hebert accused Traci Tingle of releasing was not made clear because Hebert never explained what they were. The state documents referred to, however, were inventory reports in which Traci Tingle had affirmed that the ATC had office equipment in an office in Vidalia, across the Mississippi River from Natchez. Hebert claimed “there was no Vidalia office,” Smith said, but when an ATC employee contacted the Vidalia Police Department about the matter, the Vidalia Police Department confirmed there was an ATC office in that town and that the office still contained ATC equipment.

It was unclear why Hebert would assert that ATC had no office in Vidalia unless the claim was made as a means of attempting to incriminate Traci Tingle.

What is clear, however, that Hebert is molding the agency into his personal fiefdom. He claims he has never fired a black agent but the evidence says otherwise. He also doesn’t say much about intimidating blacks—or transferring one from Shreveport to New Orleans without so much as day’s notice—to the point that they leave of their own accord.

The thing to keep uppermost in mind is that he is Jindal’s hand-picket director, specifically plucked from the legislature to succeed the man whom Jindal railroaded out of office with bogus criminal charges that were subsequently laughed out of court—all because that man, Murphy Painter, insisted that applicants (even those connected to big campaign donors like Tom Benson) conform to the rules when submitting applications for permits.

LouisianaVoice saw a railroad job then and we called it just that—when no other members of the media would come to the defense of Painter. We’re again seeing a railroad job and again, we’re calling it just that.

Jindal, of course, does not preside over the ATC Office but his policies, like a certain substance, flow downhill.

And right now, they’re stinking up the ATC Office.

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