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2.2.12

To offset inertia, right-sizing govt needs attention to detail

As the state cues up more means to improve service and save money, this does not mean it can afford to abrogate its responsibility to present clear rationales for doing so, as the latest meeting of the State Civil Service Commission demonstrates.

In it, the CSC was given notice of four planned reorganizations that would shrink bureaucracy. In any situation where layoffs occur, the CSC must approve of the plan on the evidence that government must do so because of insufficient finances or that an alternative method, such as contracting, will save the state money, in order to prevent arbitrary discharges of employees from the state’s classified civil service. As a result, for next month’s meeting the agencies involved will have to present data to demonstrate savings with the likelihood of comparable or better service, which they indicate they can and will do.

Yet, given that opportunity for another change that did not involve contracting outside of government, one agency involved, the Department of Health and Hospitals, threw up a brick. It planned to eliminate over five dozen jobs dealing with information technology in New Orleans by, in essence, transferring the responsibility to the University of New Orleans. While it argued that data processing at UNO was done with greater expertise, the supporting documentation contained so many errors and was so convoluted that not a single member of the Commission was convinced, and some thought it would cost more.

1.2.12

Create cheap dental coverage to foster responsibility

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure even when government provides it on behalf of those who can’t or won’t do it themselves. But if government gets forced into provision on cost considerations, at the same time it need not take its typical tack of providing anywhere from half a pound to a ton of prevention when faced with a social welfare issue, as a review of Medicaid oral health policy shows.

This federal-state program guarantees dental care up to age 18, and after that age states may add care as they see fit. Louisiana provides it up to 21 and for expectant mothers. As for other Medicaid recipients in this state, they’re on their own resources. Unfortunately, this leads a vast number of those with dental problems to emergency rooms, where Medicaid will pay for palliative care but not for dental procedures often necessary to fix an underlying problem.

As a result, the problem only gets obliquely addressed, often necessitating more visits than if directly addressed, which ultimately would cost taxpayers less money. Over the past couple of years, the cost to the state has been around the $1.7 million mark, which if focused on curing the disease rather than treating the symptoms may have been half or less.

31.1.12

Mistaken ruling opts for convenience despite clear intent

A perplexing and wrong-headed judicial decision temporarily has the state off the hook for committing at least $150 million in revenues, but hopefully an appeal will restore constitutional dignity to the matter.

As previously noted, at issue was the timing of the state’s having to pay back withdrawals from the Budget Stabilization Fund, which serves as a bank account for the state from which to make limited withdrawals in limited circumstances to help produce a balanced budget. As written, the state Constitution required, under the recent set of fiscal circumstances encountered by the state, that an amount taken from it in 2010 to have been paid back already (essentially, almost immediately), while a conflicting state law passed a year prior did not mandate this. The state accepted the law’s rendering for the pending budgetary year.

After the fiscal 2011 budget went into effect, interested parties sued to force immediate payback, citing that the Constitution takes precedence over conflicting state law. But they postponed the matter when the Legislature in 2011 offered up a Constitutional amendment that would write into the Constitution the statute’s interpretation. Last fall, that measure failed at the ballot box, and the suit resumed.

30.1.12

Factless distortion campaign continues against plan deal

Despite the fact that the obvious evidence shows contracting out all state health benefits administration in the first year alone would net as much as almost $300 million, and over $75 million each succeeding year, misinformation and conspiracy theories continue concerning this from vested interests against what appears to be a sound move by Louisiana.

The state is only one of two that has a significant amount of benefits administration, a little under 30 percent of its insured population, performed by the state. This occurs through the Office of Group Benefits, a part of the Division of Administration, the agency designed to assist the governor in running matters given to his responsibility under law.

While discussion about this has been going on for a year, with studies done demonstrating the savings, promises made by the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration that contracting out this business, joining the plans covering all other state employees and retirees, would occur only if cost savings would occur as result of an actual contract being in place, and with the legally required oversight of the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget producing consent, the next step has been taken in hiring a firm to work out whether such a contract with a private sector entity can be worked out.

29.1.12

Roemer adds another layer of hypocrisy to campaign

In case you were wondering whether former Gov. Buddy Roemer, running for president under a banner-to-be-named later, has run out of hypocrisy during this campaign, in case you thought not, well, guess again.

Roemer, who got both his political and business careers started amid wealth and insider connections, has built a campaign railing against both. To demonstrate his fidelity to his born-again ideology, he refuses to accept donations higher than $100 to the effort – but when Republican voters showed they thought about as much of his conspiratorial mindset as they do black helicopters and the puerile class warfare worldview peddled by Pres. Barack Obama, Roemer began to sidle on up to an organization known as Americans Elect, funded secretively through many large donations from individuals who harbor leftist views.

After his thorough rejection in the New Hampshire primary, Roemer’s dalliance with the group, which states as its purpose to get a candidate onto the ballots of all 50 states and the District of Columbia selected by the public from choices it provides, became less restrained. Despite the fact that Roemer remains on the ballot in at least a couple of more states for the GOP nomination and plans to get on it and campaign in others, he now speaks of a simultaneous pursuit of the AE selection and, assuming he gets the nod from the organizers, victory in the Internet-based public polling.