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Edwards' cutting negates tax hike argument

As a mechanic/Marine used to say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise:” Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office won’t have to lay off staffers after all. And the credibility gap attached to the Democrat’s rhetoric continues to grow.

All throughout the first part of the year, Edwards predicted doom and gloom to Louisiana’s budget that only enormous tax increases could balance. He kept insisting that, instead of making unilateral modest spending reductions of around five percent across most agencies, he largely could not cut his way to balancing last fiscal year’s budget, prompting a special session prior to this year’s regular session to hike taxes. Concerning this year’s version, he kept asserting that a cut-first strategy would gut vital programs that demanded more tax increases in another special session. After that, even though he voted for and signed $2.4 billion worth of tax increases in a 13-month span, he still talked about the disappointment of not gulping down more taxpayer dollars to stave off cuts a recalcitrant Republican-led Legislature forced upon him.

These included around $700,000 reduced from the Governor’s Office, which received over $9.1 million in funding this year, compared to last year, a 7.7 percent drop (over the original figure; that declined a bit through mid-year cuts). Edwards moaned about how this meant some staff reductions, where already the governor had budgeted some $200,000 fewer for personnel.


LA Senate field set; Kennedy remains favorite

With a slight wildcard tossed in, Louisiana’s 2016 Senate race qualification closed with little change in its dynamics that continue to make Republican Treasurer John Kennedy a clear favorite, as reflected in the most recent (becoming stale) independent poll of the contest.

A record two dozen candidates put themselves out there (creating potential headaches for debate planners), with the five major candidates taking the plunge; besides Kennedy, the GOP put on offer Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming, while Democrats Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and trial lawyer Caroline Fayard signed up. With them several relevant candidates – those who will not run competitively but whose presence will affect the electoral performances of the major candidates that will be competitive – also went for it: Republican former Senate candidate Rob Maness, Republican businessman Abhay Patel, Democrat businessman Josh Pellerin, no-party former state legislator Troy Hebert, and former state Rep. Prisoner #28213-034, out of the slammer called David Duke.

Both Patel and Pellerin have deep pockets to self-finance campaigns if called upon, but will score little because the electoral spaces they seek to occupy have quality candidates already in place. If Patel wants to run as an outsider businessman, Fleming already can claim that and obtaining actual results as an “outsider” to the Washington political establishment by his votes cast and minor role in changing the House’s leadership. Pellerin, who presents himself as liberal version of Patel, will find it tough sledding to peel votes from the populist liberal Campbell and liberal non-officeholder Fayard, both whom also can self-finance.


GOP trio emerges as LA-4 CD favorites

Qualifying has closed for the selection of Republican Rep. John Fleming’s successor, with the northwest/western Louisiana district’s next U.S. House member likely coming from one of a prominent social conservative, a Main Street Republican, or a political newcomer riding the outsider wave notable in this election cycle.

Relevant candidates filing include physician Dr. Trey Baucum, Shreveport City Councilman Oliver Jenkins, state Rep. Mike Johnson, former legislator Elbert Guillory, attorney Rick John – Republicans all – joined by Democrat lawyer Marshall Jones. All are white and from Shreveport/Bossier, except for Guillory, who is black and from the southern part of the district.

That list contains the major candidates who could win, with John not among them. He has lagged badly in fundraising, well under $100,000, compared to Baucum and Jenkins who each have topped a half million bucks, and Johnson with over a quarter of a million dollars. Nor is Guillory; while he has a high profile, having most recently run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor, his campaign seems as desultory as that one with only around $100,000 raised.


Edwards seeks to foist unneeded, wasteful ER on LA

There’s a right way to provide quality health care services using taxpayer dollars wisely. That’s not what’s going on with the stated intent of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Administration to put an emergency room in northern Baton Rouge.

With the closing of the city’s charity hospital in the area a few years ago and transfer of most of the services it provided previously to a hospital in southern Baton Rouge, a health care hole opened up in north Baton Rouge. Most patients had their bills paid by Medicaid, with many living in that area. When those services moved several miles south, clients found transportation to these more challenging. This becomes magnified when people need emergency services.

That situation became more exacerbated when the next closest full-service hospital, Baton Rouge General Medical Center Mid City, closed its emergency room. It had hemorrhaged money because increasingly its patient load comprised Medicaid patients, who disproportionately use emergency services even though most of their ailments do not require that kind of intervention. Medicaid reimbursements fell far short of actual operating costs, which threatened to drag under the entire hospital.


Double standard appears to support political agenda

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a habit. Lack of political courage by some and lack of character on the part of state Sen. Troy Brown may yet reveal knocking around women as habitual for him as is his political allies' penchant for acting hypocritically.

For the second time in a year, Democrat Brown faces charges of domestic violence; this time concerning his wife after last year’s incident involving his mistress. Neither case has come to trial, and while he deserves the presumption of innocence until judicial resolution, he already had garnered a small punishment by Republican Sen. Pres. John Alario who withheld any committee chairmanships of vice chairmanships, which usually come to a reelected senator of the governor’s party.

The Constitution grants the Senate the ability to discipline or to expel a member, by a two-thirds vote. No other body of law relative to the Senate has information about various disciplines available, but Alario made no move to invoke any since last year. Again, this may be appropriate given no conviction of Brown at present, but at the same time the alleged impropriety has brought shame to the institution.


Curb impractical BR boycott that promotes injustice

Sometimes the right thing doesn’t get done for the appropriate reason, but better that than doing the wrong thing. That describes the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s national office suspending the head of the organization’s Baton Rouge chapter in calling for a boycott of some area retailers in the wake of the shooting death of black resident Alton Sterling two weeks ago at the hands of white Baton Rouge police.

Rev. Reginald Pitcher, along with leaders of the local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Nation of Islam, called for residents to refrain from shopping at the Mall of Louisiana, Cortana Mall and area Wal-Mart stores over the Jul. 8 weekend to protest Sterling’s shooting. The SCLC has a policy that local actions must receive clearance from the national organization when it involves a national issue or agent; Wal-Mart has a nationwide presence and a large portion of mall tenants also represent national corporations.

Even deposed, the defiant Pitcher said the chapter planned to continue rolling boycotts aimed at various sellers in the near future, with the idea of putting economic pressure on businesses until the arrest of the white officers that struggled with Sterling. The campaign pause came as a result of the assassination of area law enforcement officers by a disturbed black nationalist, ironically once affiliated with the Nation of Islam, who apparently became upset over Sterling’s death and travelled specifically to Baton Rouge to wreak some twisted form of revenge.


Film credit review must not reverse progress

When Gov. John Bel Edwards announced earlier this month he would launch a review of Louisiana’s Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit, policy-makers should have responded by telling him to cut to the chase in making the program efficient with its state subsidization.

We don’t need to study the issue more; we already know the film tax credit wastes taxpayer dollars – a lot of these. Unusual among any of the other hundreds of such breaks, the law requires biannual reporting of these and the related music, sound, and digital credits. Every report since introduction of these has found a tremendous negative return on investment for the state, although the last of those, through 2014, revealed the least bad news ever – credits now only lose 77 cents for every buck given out (maybe 10 cents fewer if including local tax revenues, although local incentive programs also affect this number).

That loss, about $172 million in fiscal year 2014, will find itself trimmed over the next three years, due to legislation that tightened up program eligibility rules and put a cap on reimbursement – which differs from issuance as reimbursement may occur at any time in the indeterminate future – at $180 million annually (although a halt in automatic state buyback of credits at 85 percent for FY 2015 crowded that figure a bit) through FY 2018.


BR advances from tragedy by discouraging extremism

If Baton Rougeans can find any solace in the senseless murders of Officers Montrell Jackson and Matthew Gerald and Deputy Brad Garafola, it didn’t spring from the city’s loins. What else is known provides guidance so that the city can move beyond simmering tensions left from the event that apparently precipitated this heinous crime, the death of Alton Sterling at the hands of Baton Rouge police.

A federal government investigation will determine whether the shooting of Sterling, a black man, came as a result of police negligence or misconduct. On the surface, it would seem the white officers involved, having to make a quick judgment in a matter of seconds in chaotic conditions, very well may have felt a legitimate threat to their lives that led to the fatal decision to use deadly force. Sterling was a career criminal engaged in a criminal enterprise and known to have an illegal gun when police approached him; also having had a recent arrest for possession of drugs, he may have been in an impaired state at that time and not using good sense by not following police orders and then struggling even after having a Taser used upon him.

But having a record and acting illegally doesn’t deserve getting killed. The events as understood by some in the community, particularly among blacks, pointed to insufficient provocation to justify lethal force. The investigation will sort this out, mistake or accident, but almost certainly will not proffer a third option: the white officers killed a black man because of some deep-seated, if not recognizable on the surface, racial animosity.


Irresponsible BR politicians reap violence

You reap what you sow, a lesson some candidates running for political office around Baton Rouge need to learn, to the community’s regret.

While many area politicians called for peaceful protesting over the death of Alton Sterling, a black man allegedly shot by a white Baton Rouge police officer, a few of them went further. Democrat state Reps. Ted James and Denise Marcelle attended marches where meritless accusations, often made by frequent-flyer protesters from outside Louisiana but also issued from some local leaders, flowed about alleged state-sponsored oppression of blacks. James called the shooting “murder” and questioned “what it really means to be land of the free and home of the brave.” Marcelle wore a shirt with Sterling’s name over mimicked gunshots wounds. Marcelle is running for mayor-president of Baton Rouge later this year; James flirted with the idea before passing.

At the funeral for Sterling, Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond echoed the theme, calling America “this discriminatory system that under-educates, over-incarcerates, a system that perpetuates income inequality,” or a repeating of tired talking points that attempt to blame “the system” (presumably run by non-blacks) for lower quality of life among blacks generally, when in fact liberal policy failures stemming from Democrat leadership have produced this. Richmond seeks reelection this fall against Democrat current and term-limited Mayor-Pres. Kip Holden, who did not attend and has made only brief, nonpolitical comments about the incident except to note that, in his opinion, Richmond’s travel from his New Orleans base only served to aggravate the situation.