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13.6.13

Overdue end coming to govt-paid LA bus service

There’s no reason to end the LA Swift service. But there’s every reason to end any state or local government involvement in it.



LA Swift is the bus service, heretofore paid entirely by the federal government and by small passenger assessments that vary between $4.40 and $5.00 a trip, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The idea was, after Hurricane Katrina, to provide an opportunity for those displaced from the New Orleans area to have access, perhaps even be employed, in the area while temporarily housed in Baton Rouge or select points in between. The federal government put up all the funds, presently about $2.3 million a year.



Over the years, naturally enough, the program began to mutate beyond its original purpose and thereby expand. While a ridership survey showed the majority of rides involved getting to and from work, nearly half were reported as occurring for visitation purposes, and some for health care reasons. Only a third did not have a private car to use for transport. It also promised some amenities in traveling, such as ability to view televisions, wireless connectivity, and the ability to transport bicycles. It grew into eight round-trips on weekdays, five during weekends with more limited stops, serving over 12,000 riders a month and thus promoting the following possibility.

12.6.13

Landrieu distorts, fibs for cover on Obamacare vote

With the necessity of an election now less than a year-and-a-half away, Sen. Mary Landrieu knows her reelection chances are most imperiled by hers being the decisive vote for the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.” Thus she took the opportunity at the end of the recently-completed regular session of the Louisiana Legislature to write an opinion piece on a matter related to it that provides a textbook example of how she will try to distort, if not outright fib about, the issue during the campaign.



Landrieu addresses in writing the Legislature’s decision not to expand coverage to all but the lowest-income households already covered, a choice made optional for states as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling almost a year ago on the matter. She berates its majority and Gov. Bobby Jindal for this opposition, and gives alleged justifications that, when analyzed in the light of truth, simply do not hold up.



Initially, she claims that “By saying no to the expansion, they said no to positive economic impacts to Louisiana’s economy and health care improvements for many people who desperately need and deserve better care.” She then cites statistics from the leftist advocacy group Families USA that purport to show increased economic impact and jobs – but naturally ignores the report’s lack of comprehensiveness in its approach that makes its conclusions next to worthless.

11.6.13

Policy-makers fail public again on film tax credit reform

While tax reform to begin the process of eliminating the income tax would have been great to have achieved, the single largest disappointment of the just-concluded regular session of the Louisiana Legislature was almost nothing was done to rein in unproductive tax credits, despite an entire commission studying the matter after the previous session’s end. And of these, failure to make meaningful change to the motion picture investor tax credit program should rankle taxpayers the most.



Not only is this the single biggest waster of the people’s money of all such items extant, where citizens get back fewer than one dollar for every seven transferred to mainly wealthy individuals (including state elected officials), but also the time was just so ripe for it to happen. Mounting budget pressures plus the commission’s exposure put the credit in the crosshairs, so the political will seemed present to make major modifications. There was talk, and legislation, about capping what would be claimed for salaries and other expenses and limiting qualifying investors’ stakes, and even sunsetting the program after a couple of years if it did not prove cost effective.



The move by a group of legislators calling themselves the “fiscal hawks” to find new sources of revenues also seemed to make meaningful change more possible. They talked up cutting the reimbursement levels of this and other credits in order to find dollars to offset their Great Satan of “one-time money.”

10.6.13

Guillory switch unhinges Democrats, with more to come?

Until last week, the U.S. Senate had more black Republicans in it – Sem. Tim Scott – than did all of the states’ (50 if we include Nebraska’s unicameral body) upper chambers combined. Now they’re even up, thanks to Louisiana’s state Sen. Elbert Guillory making the switch back from Democrat of six years ago to the party in whose governance body he once served.



On the one hand, it’s just a label. Guillory’s overall voting record since his election in 2007 to the state House and then special election to the state Senate in 2008, according to the Louisiana Legislature Log voting index (where 100 means all votes in a year were of the conservative/reform variety) gives him an average of just 56 – exactly the overall average of the entire Legislature over those five years putting him a shade on the side of Republicans who typically espouse conservatism and reform ideas. His one year in the House and first in the Senate were much lower – a 32.5 compared to nearly 72 in the next three years, going from a district 58 percent black and 69 percent Democrats to one 54 percent black and 63 percent Democrats. The district now is 55 percent black, 61 percent Democrats.



On the other hand, the symbolism carries import politically both positive and negative. No group in America even is close to the loyalty that blacks display to Democrat candidates of any color, but at the national level black Democrat candidates score slightly better support. Whether that gets scrambled by having a black Republican candidate is another matter. Guillory has joined an extremely small group; while current data is difficult to come by, a decade ago only a half dozen black Republicans sat in state legislatures, and every one of them represented a majority white district. Possibly no black Republican ever has won election to a state legislative spot in a majority-minority black district since the 19th century.

9.6.13

Clash of populism, principle within GOP defined session

At the close of the 2013 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature, some speculated that potentially a new day could be dawning in the state’s politics. That’s correct, but for absolutely the wrong reason cited.



The revolutionary aspect of it all supposedly is that the Legislature is willing, ready, and able to stand up for itself against the executive, who presumably uses his formal but more his informal powers of office to dominate policy-making. In this view, session results allegedly showed legislators could take charge and become the prime movers of policy.



Evidence of legislative leadership is said to be its ability to carve out a budget more to its liking, particularly of the House, than what the governor preferred. Elements of both parties in the House combined forces to drive the process, resisting even the Senate, which seemed to be closer to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s preferences. Meanwhile, Jindal himself abandoned his stated priority given before session commencement of tax reform to eliminate income taxation and appeared to do little or could do little to keep the budget shaped along his preferences.