All aboard the tax hike train, at least one media outlet in Louisiana appears to encourage to the detriment of the state.
It’s no secret that Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has longed since his first day in office for tax increases, and disproportionately on its most productive entities, rather than reduce the size of Louisiana state government. He did manage to get a temporary sales tax increase through the Legislature, but it was his last, least preferred option.
Now Edwards has more impetus to seek tax increases. The descent of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic has triggered overall revenue reductions and higher expenditures in some areas, particularly concerning the burgeoning imbalance of unemployment insurance payments going out compared to taxes coming in. Instead of pulling back on government spending for this fiscal year, Edwards successfully implored the Legislature to spend federal government largesse without cuts, making for an expensive ticking time bomb for taxpayers.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 17:00
The mainstream media, both national and Louisianan, still stumble in the dark when comes to understanding the policy blunders that have made Louisiana the worst-hit, longest hit state by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
Ten days ago, USA TODAY ran a piece on how not only did Louisiana suffer a high peak of infections in the spring, but, more than any other state, has seen one again this summer. Yesterday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune/Advocate published musings from Jeff Asher, known more for his analysis of crime but who recently has made a pivot to looking at pandemic data, about recent patterns in these data.
Louisiana continues to serve as an outlier to national pandemic trends, because of this bimodal distribution in cases. Because of that, as of yesterday it ranked second in infection rate, fifth in current hospitalization percentage per capita, and sixth in mortality per capita. Only Georgia, at first, first, and eighth, respectively, arguably is as bad off. But this is its first rodeo, only within the past month hitting these lamentable marks for the first time while Louisiana is repeating, and worse daily on cases but with far fewer deaths, from four months ago.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 17:30
Perhaps it didn’t match the author’s intent, but a recent article in Louisiana’s largest newspaper illuminated a glaring weakness in Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ approach to battling the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
A piece in the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate replicated one in the New York Times about “excess” deaths from the virus. It noted that nearly 5,000 more Louisianans died in the first four months of the pandemic than did last year during the same period. With over 3,500 directly attributable to the virus, that meant around 1,400 from other causes also had occurred over and above the previous year’s.
In it, as well as in a prior piece, came musing about why. Some “other” deaths actually may have come undiagnosed as attributable to the virus (it works the other way around, of course, with government reimbursements higher for treating virus patients than for other maladies perhaps prompting virus mortality reporting inflation) and also could come from people delaying medical treatments and/or reluctance to visit hospitals for fear of staying in them.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:10
Louisiana Democrat Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson can’t leave her post quickly enough, her latest opinion confirms.
The only black and Democrat on the Court, Johnson has a long history of being on the losing side in cases when divisions occurred. She will retire at the end of this year, courtesy of the recently-upheld Louisiana Constitution’s provision (which she dissented from) that disallows a judge running for office if 70 or older at the beginning of that next term.
But it looks like she’s going out with a real bang. A career criminal, Fair Wayne Davis, petitioned the Court to have his life sentence overturned. First convicted for attempted armed robbery in 1979, he received a sentence of ten years at hard labor. Out before his time, he subsequently was convicted of possession of stolen things in 1987, attempted forgery of a check worth $150 in 1989, and for simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling in 1992. As such, he fell under the state’s habitual offender statute, meriting his lifetime residence in a cell.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 11:45
What was at first a bit of a head scratcher around Shreveport judicial circles has become much clearer as a politicization of a judicial contest.
Last week, the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested Trina Chu, currently a candidate in the westernmost district of the state’s Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. Each district has three sections that open up periodically over a decade, and as a no party candidate she challenges longtime no party incumbent Jeannette Garrett for one of those.
Chu used to work for the Second Circuit, a few years back, for former Chief Justice Henry Brown. He left the Court in a hurry one step ahead of censure by the state’s Judiciary Commission for alleged attempted influence of another judge concerning a case in front of the Court about a woman with whom he was very friendly. That attempt supposedly involved material that Chu, also a friend of the woman, had obtained and transmitted illegally.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 15:00
A recent court decision threatens freedom of speech and assembly at the local level in Louisiana and thereby demands that the Legislature act as soon as possible to rectify.
Last week, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a group that wanted to participate in a 2015 Christmas parade in Natchitoches. Authorities barred the state’s Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter from marching while displaying the Confederate battle flag.
The three-judge panel ruled that city authorities weren’t policy-makers on this matter. Not long before the parade, the city voluntarily had turned over parade administration to a local nonprofit group. The group placed the restriction on the SCV, over which city policy-makers had no control the court decided. However, the mayor did ask the group to impose the restriction, which the group had not thought to do otherwise.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 13:55
You might think the halt in television and film production in Louisiana caused by economic restrictions wrought by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic might save the state a lot of money. If only that were a silver lining from the budgetary devastation the virus has caused.
Louisiana’s Motion Picture Production Tax credit loses the state a lot money annually. Every two years, the state legally audits the giveaway, which on in-state production can kick back from 25 to 40 percent of costs, subject to certain minimums and screenplay or personnel caps, up to a total across all ventures of $150 million annually in first-come, first-serve fashion. The last report, covering 2017 and 2018, showed that in 2018 it returned only 19 cents on the dollar to state taxpayers, with another 17 cents going to local governments fortunate enough to host productions. In 2018, that meant state taxpayers shelled out a net $120 million future loss (future because credits issued on that spending can be redeemed indefinitely, creating a long-term liability).
In fact, that report showed taxpayers benefited from legal changes in force from 2015-17 that discouraged producers from raiding the treasury. In 2017, the state certified only $113 million in credits, but with the relaxing 2017 changes that figure increased to near the maximum at $148 million. Future years were predicted to hit the cap.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:40
Stuck pigs squeal, which is why a lot of oinking came from Republican Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker over a tax increase he wants voters to ratify on Aug. 15.
Monday, Walker took to the airwaves to explain how the city’s request for voters to authorize starting next year a 6.19 mill property tax dedicated to public safety operations for the next decade really wasn’t an increase over the current 6 mills set to expire this year. The feat to deny the ballot item’s actual wording that it “represent[s] a nineteen hundredths (.19) of a mill increase over the 6 mills authorized” currently involved some misdirection, blame-shifting, and a subordinate’s handy prop.
To understand his argument as it is, which doesn’t quite mesh with how he wanted it to appear, it’s necessary to review the legal arcaneness of Louisiana property taxation. When citizens pass a property tax dedicated to government operations of some kind, the amount becomes a ceiling on what the government can charge. It doesn’t have to levy all of it; every year, governments have the option – in Bossier City’s case, by ordinance – to set rates anywhere up to that maximum, which normally equals the amount approved by voters.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:50
No elections emergency ever existed in Louisiana, nor will one exist this fall, that justifies weakened election rules.
When the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic descended upon Louisiana this spring, a combination of panic and opportunism gripped elected officials in charge of elections. Those who panicked foresaw voting locations for April and May elections becoming a miasma of the virus, inevitably pouncing on the vulnerable who showed up to exercise the franchise. The opportunists saw the environment as a doorway to relax procedures, whether it encouraged illegal voting, that could bring partisan advantage favoring their interests.
Thus, without an entirely convincing rationale, these elections were postponed first for about two months, then another. In the meantime, Republican Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin, backed by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, presented a deeply flawed plan to alter procedures for the pair of low-stimulus affairs. When the appropriate legislative panels rejected those temporary rules, he came back with a less-flawed plan that unwisely won acceptance. The rescheduled to Jul. 11 elections operated under these, as will the rescheduled to Aug. 15 set.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:30
It’s you, not him, who deserves blame for Louisiana’s worst-in-the-nation Wuhan coronavirus pandemic response, according to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.
In his latest attempt simultaneously to avoid taking responsibility for and to drag out needlessly the state’s sorry policy reaction to the pandemic, last week Edwards said he would keep in place for at least two weeks proclamations that had reduced the size of gatherings to 50, closed bars even with food service permits (unless they have video poker machines) for anything on premises, and mandated face coverings. At week’s close, Louisiana ranked second in cases per capita (Edwards erroneously claimed the state had the most), ranked fourth in current hospitalizations per capita, and sixth in mortality per capita. Only Georgia, which held down, respectively, first, first, and eighth places, rivals Louisiana in pandemic severity at this time.
The reason, said Edwards, is you. Enough of you don’t wear your masks enough to let the state register improved metrics and then move towards more economic openness. And maybe those nasty Republicans had something to do with it, one of his functionaries last month charged, saying that Edwards had resisted imposing this kind of restriction previously because of “political considerations.” Mainly GOP politicians have led the public fight against a heavy-handed state response that included a mask mandate.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:35