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Smaller LA government, higher taxes seem likely

With Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras’ admission that a fourth special session in 18 months of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ term seems inevitable, the endgame to the fiscal year 2018 budget has arrived.

As bills Edwards supported raising enough taxes to cover a “fiscal cliff” – $1.3 million in revenues from curtailing income and sales tax exceptions plus an extra penny in sales taxes that expire at the end of FY 2018 – never made it out of the cradle, legislative debate has focused on how much of the cliff mattered and how to compensate for it relative in the upcoming year’s budget. Even though expiration assured the money’s availability through that cycle, what to do about the cliff depends upon actions taken with this budget.

Edwards’ budget request so far as totaled about $677 million higher than the House’s version of HB 1 now in the hands of the Senate. He wanted an increase over this year of $440 million, while the House concocted a standstill overall plan then subtracted $237 million, or 2.5 percent, as a buffer in case of revenue disappointments during the year. That would mean the shortfall for FY 2019, given the House’s preferences that would become the baseline moving forward, would be in the neighborhood of just less than half of the cliff’s amount.


Leniency on criminal fines subverts crime reduction

Louisiana’s lawmakers can’t let money concerns overrule good sense when it comes to criminal justice reform, thus requiring compromise within bills such as state Rep. Tanner Magee’s HB 249.

As state policy-makers have made a concerted effort to reform the system that incarcerates more people per capita than any country in the world or than any state in the country, many have sold the effort as a means to save money. They have argued that smarter allocation of resources could result without impairing effectiveness of correctional policy.

But the package of bills to reflect changes to transform the system has faced scrutiny for introducing too much laxity in sentencing and carrying that out. Supporters have had to tone down measures that unwisely would have eroded the deterrent effects concerning the most serious crimes, which also served to erode savings promised.


Caddo-area officials struggling to get with program

Seems a job requirement for many elected officials around Caddo Parish is absolute thick-headedness, judging by their reactions to the evolving Elio Motors controversy and daydreaming about minor league basketball.

Caddo Parish commissioners have become increasingly nervous over Elio, which continues to give signals that it won’t last much longer. The firm desires to build a three-wheel automobile and begun taking reservations to distribute these years ago. To that end, an arm of parish government, the Caddo Industrial Development Board, used $7.5 million in parish money to purchase and lease to Elio two-fifths of the old General Motors plant on the southwest side of the parish.

In response, Elio has kept delaying production while burning through cash at a high rate. That includes proceeds worth millions of dollars from sales of equipment at the site technically under parish ownership, although IDB President Gard Wayt claims only outdated equipment remains. Another entity, Glovis America, said it would lease part of the property as well and had moved closer to launching there production of automobile parts.


Good trafficking bill hijacked for obscure motives

The next chapter in the strange mutation of SB 144 could continue later today in the Louisiana Senate, although more twists could lay ahead if the bill makes it to the House of Representatives.

This bill originally would have barred people from under 21 from performing as strippers in places that serve alcohol. The impetus came to combat human trafficking, which particularly plagues the youngest individuals, research reveals It actually passed last year in a slightly different form without a single dissenting vote, but then lost out on a court challenge that nonetheless demonstrated alterations that could make the law constitutional.

With that in mind, last year’s bill author Republican state Sen. Ronnie Johns submitted this year’s more elaborate version, with no controversy expected regarding it. Even when Sen. Pres. John Alario assigned it to the Judiciary B Committee, unlike last year’s that went to Judiciary C – the two have identical jurisdictions – that didn’t seem so odd since Johns sat on the former.