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14.7.11

Investigation reminds why system merger needed

As if $18.2 billion in unfunded accrued liabilities isn’t bad enough, with a history of bad investment decisions, yet another problem may loom for Louisiana’s retirement funds. If so, at least the silver lining to it may be, finally, recognition that fundamental change must come to how state and local governments handle their investments for retirees.

It appears that $100 million of investment by three of Louisiana’s retirement systems designed for local government employees may be at risk by what is being called as “unorthodox” investing practices. These funds’ boards now fear they cannot get their money out at its actual value as a result, which has apparently become part of a larger investigation into the firm in question.

Unfortunately, if it comes to light that board members were insufficiently critical of promises of a minimum 12 percent return, it would not be the first time board members of a Louisiana retirement fund, most of whom have little if any background in financial matters much less any expertise in the modern financial services sector, chased impressive returns through dubious means that involved criminal activity.

13.7.11

LA rightly fights partisan voter registration power play

With an assist from their party leaders in positions of power in Washington, Louisiana Democrats fired their first salvo at trying to reverse their miserable standing in statewide offices by the launching of a frivolous suit being paid for by federal and state taxpayers.

Pres. Barack Obama’s politicized U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against some Louisiana state agencies, trying to strongarm the state into following its dictates, by asking federal District Judge James Brady, the former party chairman of state Democrats, to have the state admit it deprived people of the right to register to vote. Correctly, the state has challenged that and thus goes to court.

It does so because of Justice’s assertion that too small of a proportion of applicants for various public assistance programs end up registering to vote.

12.7.11

Jindal bats away try at partisan election law rewrite

Last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal made what appeared an odd veto, of HB 533 by state Rep. Rick Gallot. But understanding the legislative history of the bill shows the wisdom of it.

In the past, bills like this, sponsored by the chairman of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, made annual minor revisions to the state’s election code, tinkering to improve administration. And at its beginning, it was not controversial except for one provision, elimination of poll watchers for early voting. While a bit troubling for ballot integrity, where volunteers from organizations provide self-policing, that early voting occurs in limited locations under the supervision of local registrars in and of itself meant this part did not merit the bill’s demise.

But it picked up a hitchhiker along the way that Gallot had inserted as a palliative for the failure of HB 82 by state Rep. Rosalind Jones, which would have removed party affiliations for all but federal elections and those for political party office.

11.7.11

Less legislative oversight LA Legislature's own fault

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of some bills from the latest legislative session that would have given more legislative control over the execution of one government program and contracting associated with another allows revisiting the question about appropriate separation of powers in Louisiana. But analysis of this improves with less hand-wringing and more thoughtful understanding of the separate roles the different branches of government play and how the Louisiana Constitution apportions powers to accomplish this.

One veto came as a line item to HB 1, the operating budget, and would have caused legislative committee review of all contracts over a certain amount emanating from the Recovery School District. The other was in the same bill as a line item and also expressed in a separate bill itself entirely vetoed, SB 207, that would have mandated legislative review of implementation of a program designed to more efficiently deliver health care services to the indigent.

In the case of the former, if anything this kind of stipulation begins to intrude on executive branch powers with the aggrandizement of them by the legislative branch.

10.7.11

New blood needed to stop wasteful LA film welfare

Another legislative session, and more wasted corporate welfare to the film industry goes out the door in Louisiana, even as other states get smarter and scale back their inefficient uses of money.

As previously warned on the heels of yet another discouraging report of this squandered money of the people, the state paid out more than $150 million extra a year each for the previous two years than benefits it received from these programs, which of a per-film basis pay tax credits to eligible producers who then keep them to reduce their tax liabilities or market them for cash. Yet despite tremendous budget pressures, the Legislature neither eliminated nor reduced the program, nor did Gov. Bobby Jindal cast a line item veto against those expenditures.

And it keeps adding up. Whether intentionally so, the reports legally required on the program are difficult to find on the Internet as they are not kept in any organized way (so use a search engine on a term like “fiscal economic impact Louisiana film incentive” to find them housed at the state site). But going back through them to the first year data were kept and adding on to the present, since then it’s almost a net $1 billion that has been transferred from state taxpayers to Hollywood moguls, independent producers short on talent, stars, speculators, those interested in tax breaks from the state, and the like – money that could have gone to education, the disabled, about paid for a new Big Charity, completely finish both legs of I-49, etc. Or it could have been used to wipe out completely corporate income taxes that would have spurred much more economic development and tax revenues than these boutique projects ever could have.