Baton Rouge attorney Jimmy Napper, originally from my old stomping grounds up in Lincoln Parish, has written an open letter to members of the Louisiana Legislature. His letter, in italics, is followed by some financial figures I obtained through public records requests.
Please, please, Legislators!
Quit changing the rules. Stop moving the goal line and keep your promises!
You are ruining the State, and we should not tolerate it anymore!
The State took less revenue for many years, intentionally, to build a new, much-needed industry in Louisiana, the film and television industry, and established a complete infrastructure made up of tens of thousands of our citizens to service it and make it flourish—to the great consternation of Los Angeles and others who have dominated and monopolized it in the past.
Now, in your wisdom, you have decided to change the rules and renege on your promises—probably the clearest and most decisive way to kill this formerly thriving business in our state. Investment—intense businesses, like the film and TV industry (and Wall Street too)—abhor and are deadly allergic to uncertainty. And you have been and are creating blinding uncertainty with your actions. The resulting declines are already evident.
Can’t you keep your promises? especially to people who want to invest millions of dollars in this State? especially when they are the driver for a nationally successful new industry?
And then there is TOPS, one of the most important and successful things ever done in a State which has suffered terrible educational outcomes for decades.
You blindly followed Bobby Jindal and caused the cost of TOPS to sky-rocket the last eight years by slashing State appropriations to higher and education and then endorsing the raising of tuitions. The unavoidable and readily discernable result was increasing the cost of TOPS. Now you now scratch your collective heads and try to feign surprise, declaring that “we just can’t afford it anymore.” Oh, really?
Then, you whine and tell how hard it is for you to do your job, as you tell us the only solution is to change the rules and break promises to the best and brightest young people in this State, thereby placing an unbearable financial strain on their parents. You now tell us: No matter what was said before and what you relied upon, we have to move the goal lines and adversely affect your education and lives. We’re sorry, but you just cannot imagine how hard it is for us to do this to you.
Can’t you abide by and keep the rules, keep your promises, and do your job? especially for the best and brightest that are already in Louisiana colleges and who now face a loss of what they were promised (by you) they would get if they worked hard and earned it?
Please, please, Legislators, stand up and figure out how to be adults and to keep your promises!
After reading Napper’s letter, I thought it might be interesting to see just how diligent the House and Senate are in practicing pecuniary responsibility in light of all the budgetary cutbacks imposed on the rest of the state, higher education and health care at the forefront.
Traditionally, the legislature flies well beneath the fiscal radar year after year with no one in the media bothering to hold lawmakers accountable for their own spending habits.
Here’s what we found:
The Legislature is comprised of 39 senators and 105 representatives—144 lawmakers in all.
- Between them, the House and Senate have 252 employees—1.75 employees per legislator.
- The breakdown is 136 for the House and 115 for Senate (the number of Senate employees is 84.5 percent of that of the lower chamber even though its membership is only 37 percent of that of the House).
- The combined payroll for those 252 employees is $18.9 million—$9.6 for the House and $9.3 million for the Senate. Together, the two chambers’ per-employee average salary is $71,175 per year, far higher than the average state civil service employee makes. (Of course that average is bloated with top-heavy salaries earned by administrative personnel and attorneys who comprise nearly half the total number of employees.)
- The two chambers have 52 members (25 for the House and 27 for the Senate) who earn more than $100,000 per year—19 of whom (11 in the House and eight in the Senate) earn more than the governor’s $130,000 per year salary.
Has the legislature agreed to share the pain of other agencies who have been forced to endure deep budget cuts, resulting in layoffs? You can check that box “No.” Through the eight Jindal years and now into the Edwards administration, neither the Senate nor the House has once offered to cut their respective budgets.
Of course $18.9 million doesn’t represent much in the overall scheme of things but it would be a nice symbolic gesture if the legislature would at least offer to tighten its own belt.
Looking down the roster of employees, a few things jump out:
- The House has an Assistant to the Speaker ($68,600), a Special Assistant to the Speaker ($93,250), an Aide to the Speaker/Inmate Coordinator ($56,800), and an Executive Counsel to the Speaker ($181,200).
- There is a Director of Human Resources ($157,000), a Human Resources Manager ($83,000), two Human Resources Analysts ($75,000 and $72,000), and an Executive Assistant to Human Resources ($62,800).
- Deputy Fiscal Directors? The House has two of them ($136,800 and $101,700).
- No fewer than 12 Legislative Analysts ($141,700, $134,700, $130,800, $121,400, $114,900, $114,000, $110,000, $91,250, $88,300, $65,600, $44,200, and $35,800).
- Five Division Directors ($162,200, $137,500, $117,000, $113,600, and $103,000).
- Six Budget Analysts ($94,145, $86,700, $51,100, two at $46,800 each, and $45,000).
- Six Caucus Administrators ($121,500, $102,800, $82,150, $78,100, $56,650, and $42,100).
- And an Executive Director ($185,100).
- Clerk of the House ($220,000), a Secretary to the Clerk, two Assistant Clerks ($84,800 and $72,800), and several assistant clerks.
- Seventeen attorneys and a gaggle of Sergeants at Arms to go with communications specialists (2), a Television Audio Engineer, a Communications Director and a Deputy Communications Director, and a Communications Office Administrative Assistant.
While we’re not at all certain what those five Division Directors do, you’d think with two Deputy Fiscal Directors, 12 Legislative Analysts, six Budget Analysts, those Aides to the Speaker, and all those attorneys, the House would have a little better grasp of the state’s fiscal affairs.
The Senate likewise has:
- Six budget analysts ($140,340, $137,000, $111,500, $104,600, $100,000, and $72,500) and a plain vanilla budget analyst ($61,700).
- Two Senate Counsels ($134,300 and $104,300) and 12 Senior Attorneys (from $121,500 to $79,200).
- Five Directors ($188,900, $170,900, $148,400, $128,200, and $120,500).
- Special Counsel to the President ($118,600), Senate Counsel ($96,200), a Chief of Staff ($223,100), a Deputy Chief of Staff ($185,600), First Assistant Secretary of the Senate ($168,600).
- A Chief Legislative Researcher ($112,000) and a researcher ($53,000).
- A Chief Legislative Counsel ($130,800).
And all those researchers, lawyers, analysts and fiscal directors don’t even include offices, telephones, copiers, expense allowances, legislative salaries, per diem, and staff members for legislators in their home districts—all courtesy of state taxpayers.
With all that support staff, you’d think that members of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee would have requested a little background on Mike Edmonson before it held Wednesday’s confirmation hearing on his nomination for another term as Superintendent of State Police. But if you watched the proceedings, it was evident that they simply did not want any critical discussion of Edmonson’s professional record.
After hearing reports of senators and representatives assigning legislative staff to do research, homework and to even write school papers for legislators’ children in the past, perhaps staffers were just too busy performing those personal tasks for lawmakers to waste time on such petty matters as professional qualifications to lead the state’s law enforcement agency.