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30.6.16

Drilling controversy invites lawmaker clarification

Finally, the right thing was done. But was it done for the right reason?

Yesterday, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed that it would not take another look at its decision nearly two weeks ago not to review lower court rulings dealing with whether St. Tammany Parish zoning laws could overrule a land use decision made at the state level. This involved drilling an exploratory well that in the future could lead to the use of the hydraulic fracturing technique that has become controversial through sensationalized opposition to it. As soon as the company had word of the declination, it spudded in.

Of considerable amusement over this two-years-plus odyssey has been the reaction of a vocal minority of St. Tammany residents, some of whom drew upon every imaginable discredited allegation against the practice of fracking to argue why it never should happen. In this time, science has settled with even more certainty that, as long as drillers follow safety protocols, the process does not cause any realistic danger (including the overblown assertion that they cause meaningful earthquakes, although the less common practice of injecting wastewater into deep wells, which can be regulated against, is theorized as a potential cause of these).

29.6.16

Edwards launches deceitful propaganda campaign

Seems Gov. John Bel Edwards and his Administration’s campaign of employing the Goebbels Principle to create a distorted view of the Democrat’s first six months in office could not wait for the launching of its formal tour.

Both Edwards the organ grinder and his monkey sidekick Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne laid on the balloon juice thick and fast in the past couple of days: Edwards through a series of poison pen letters-to-the-editor and Dardenne in comments when sought out by the media in response to cogent remarks about the recently-concluded legislative sessions made by Treasurer John Kennedy, also a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Kennedy noted in an address that state spending in the budget had escalated by about a third in just six years, fueled by $2.4 billion in higher taxes – all approved by Edwards as a legislator and governor.

Dardenne in response said while the budget Edwards recommended that largely made its way into to law was the largest since those of the previous decade that were inflated by disaster recovery spending, the current effort he alleged represented a more honest look at revenues and expenditures. Yet examining that claim more closely shows a good bit of dishonesty unto itself.

28.6.16

New bridge promise ploy to aid Edwards, allies

The announcement that Louisiana’s state government intends rather than to rehabilitate to build a new Jimmie Davis Highway Bridge over the Red River stirs more questions than answers where politics may interfere with sensible use of taxpayer dollars.

Apparently, barn swallows triggered this change in direction. The federally-protected species insists on building nests on the sides under bridge decking and delayed the project two years while everybody involved figured out how to chase them away. Last month, both the state and contractor gave up, leaving motorists to wonder just how much longer the bridge would remain safe to use.

Then last week, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards dramatically announced that instead he would seek to reallocate the existing $23.4 million in funding for the fixup to a new span. For years denizens particularly in Bossier City dreamed of four lanes crossing, and plans have floated to build another span. Mayor Lo Walker, referring to numbers of at least a decade ago, estimated the cost of that at $60-80 million. Apparently, the $14 million or so in federal funding could transfer over to kick start the process, and state Sen. Barrow Peacock, who always has preferred a new span over redoing the old one, cleverly inserted language to speed up the process in case the state went for new over refurbish.

27.6.16

Edwards launches taxpayer-funded excuse tour

Seems that Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to launch an apology/blame tour now that he took some knocks in his first legislative sessions as governor. As we might expect, not much of what follows from it should we believe -- even if we pay for it.

Edwards, along with his new best friend forever Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, look to invade legislators’ hometowns over the next two weeks to spin what happened in the regular session sandwiched by two special sessions. What happened was when comparing the state’s baseline spending – ranked 18th per capita among the states – to expected revenues Louisiana would come up way short in the upcoming fiscal year, and over the course of these sessions taxes went up $1.5 billion (after hikes of $800 million last year), general fund spending increased $800 million or 10 percent, and total spending escalated $2 billion or 8 percent.

Yet somehow that wasn’t enough for Democrat Edwards, who feuded with Republicans, particularly in the House, over raising taxes that left him more than $300 million less than he wanted. So prepare ourselves for the litany of excuses and red herrings to come from him an attempt to warp the reality of the matter.

23.6.16

Mean-spirited Edwards flips off TOPS recipients

Even as he goes down to defeat, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards could not help but extend his hand up and parallel to him, with palm facing him, lowering his pinky, and telling a number of Louisiana families to read between the lines.

He reacted as such when learning that the Louisiana House of Representatives’ budget plan included a provision that if the Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars did not receive full funding that recipients would frontload tuition payments. The Republican leaders who backed the notion felt that a change in fiscal fortunes would produce more money than anticipated later in the fiscal year and if not then families would have more time to secure alternative funding. At present, TOPS appears to have only 70 percent funding.

However, neither of these rationales made a favorable impression on Edwards, who wanted to lard up at least another couple of hundred million dollars’ worth of tax increases on top of the $2.3 billion legislated over the past 13 months to close the gap. Keep in mind Edwards himself in his executive budget proposed cuts to TOPS, as a strategy to coerce the GOP majorities in the Legislature to hike taxes.

22.6.16

Suspect conclusion impoverishes voucher debate

A virtually parenthetical comment derived essentially from a footnote created a bit of turmoil at the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, illustrating a larger debasement of the scope and purpose of public policy research that has wafted through policy discourse for the past half-century.

During a routine report adoption, Louisiana School Board Association Executive Director Scott Richard challenged a passage that noted the state’s Student Scholarships for Excellence Program, known colloquially as a voucher program that allows lower-income families with students at or who otherwise would attend low-performing schools to have the state pay for tuition at a qualifying public or private school up to a certain level, saved the state money. He pointed out a sentence in a February Legislative Fiscal Office report alleged that the state would save $8.3 million without the program.

BESE gubernatorial appointee Doris Voitier then asked for the report’s alteration to include the LFO snippet. It is no accident that Richard, whose clients generally loath the program because it both highlights their failures and removes resources from their control, and Voitier, a careerist of government monopoly schools whose appointer Gov. John Bel Edwards opposes vouchers and in this year’s budget tried to scale back funding of these, called for this. So the report forwarded to the Legislature will have both, treated as equal.

21.6.16

Edwards budget bullying not experiencing payoff

A couple of announcements last week confirmed what my Advocate colleague Stephanie Grace argued as the coming of the “permanent campaign” to Louisiana gubernatorial politics, one of these proffering a surprise that perhaps demonstrates how far its tentacles have reached and what it means going forward.

Grace notes that Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statement – just a bit over six months into a four-year term – that he would run for reelection signals a mindset that state politicians increasingly incorporate campaign optics into the governing strategies they employ and therefore the issue preferences advanced and the methods they used to do that. She speculated that the Republican-led Legislature, particularly the House, and GOP Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry, a potential rival to Edwards’ reelection, in the methods they oppose and/or try to upstage Edwards in the pursuit of his agenda, join Edwards in this mode of governance.

However, less well-noticed at about the same time Edwards confirmed the obvious that Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser in a speech insisted he swore off running for governor, thus against Edwards, in 2019. In the first half of the year, Nungesser had coordinated with a leading Republican Party official in an odd, if not far-fetched, scheme to bring business to the state apparently without Edwards’ knowledge, despite that his job description has nothing to do with such efforts. Such a move could be seen as attempting to raise his profile for ascension to the state’s top spot.

20.6.16

LA Democrats oblivious to destructive policies

The toxic mixture of envy and cluelessness of Louisiana’s Democrats went on full display yesterday, captured by a single remark with the handiwork of their governing philosophy as the background noise.

In the wake of the failure of HB 38 by state Rep. Malinda White, which for the next two years only would have allowed deductibility of 57.5 percent of excess federal income tax deductions on state individual income taxes unless the combination of mortgage interest and charitable contributions exceeded that mark, state Rep. Gene Reynolds, head of the chamber’s Democrats, stupidly opined “They voted to protect the interests of the super-rich.” From such a statement, and if representative of the state’s Democrats, demonstrates they have no clue about the bill’s potential consequences or the bankruptcy of the ideology behind it.

Officials of the foremost backer of the bill, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, alleged that most of the 23 percent of returns that took the deduction concerned filers of $100,000 and over. The latest data (fiscal year 2014) indicate that about 25 percent took it, at an average of a little over $2,800.