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State to pay needless fines to make politicians look good

Once again, Louisiana elected officials have played politics to cover up for their incompetence. Once again, Louisiana citizens will have to pay for their mistakes.

These officials cry foul that the federal government isn’t allowing for the state to have enough time to “audit” bills sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Never mind that FEMA has granted multiple extensions to the state. Never mind that other affected states were quite satisfied with FEMA’s paperwork and paid their bills on time. They avoided all penalties; Louisiana is facing daily fines that may well cost millions of dollars before it gets it act together.

The excuse is that Louisiana wants to make sure the money is being spent “wisely.” The state acceded to the standard regime that the federal government will pay for the bulk of acceptable recovery costs for the hurricane disasters of 2005, but which means the state must chip in some as well. What this action covers up is that if Democrat Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Democrat-run legislature had been more interested in serving the state that playing politics to begin with, payment and any potential auditing could have been accomplished long ago.

Instead, because (by way of examples) politicians didn’t want to disrupt existing political fiefdoms regarding flood control, or because they spent so much time weakening ballot security, or because they spent a ludicrously long interval coming up with a workable housing reimbursement plan, and on and on, that Louisiana was months behind other affected states. There was wasted so much time and effort on these things which could have left plenty of time to audit (which in any event is not possible under federal law yet was tolerated and even facilitated by FEMA) and to allocate the money for the bills long ago, not in a rushed fashion towards the end of June.

Even more laughable, the state claims this is necessary to avoid the possibility of paying for “$300 hammers.” Incredulous, because of the hypocrisy behind it all: this was the same state that, for example, blew $375 per voter, ten times the normal cost, on an “outreach” program that it was not required to do but chose to do because Democrats thought it could gain them electoral advantage in New Orleans elections, and, potentially, in future elections. Or that it gives away nearly $100 million a year which a simple realigning of health care expenditures would save? As wasteful as the federal government can be, to have Louisiana officials complain about waste when they sanction it themselves gives us a new way to understand the concept of “pot, meet kettle.”

They don’t even understand how it all works in an attempt to explain away their bungling. State Rep. John Alario, intimately involved in money matters as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, attempts to cover up for it by saying “I’m sure our treasurer invested the money we set aside for paying these bills. It will be interesting to see how much we’ve earned on our money. Hopefully, it will offset what FEMA is charging us.”

But it can’t by federal law. As John Hill reported: “[I]t is specifically illegal for states to earn money off federal grants. The federal hurricane funds are ‘draw-down funds,’ which means the money stays in the federal treasury until the state has spent it; the money passes through in electronic format rather quickly.”

Besides, what was stopping the state from paying the bills up front, and then after the audit, requesting reimbursement? If it were serious about the enterprise, that’s how it would have been handled.

In short, given the past history of the state’s elected officials and its bureaucratic performance, and their obvious lack of understanding of the whole process, it’s hard to take serious the state’s claim it’s trying to be thrifty. Making much more sense is this whole operation is a smokescreen to make its politicians look good, to disguise the fact they’ve once again failed their constituents and are making the citizenry pay for their stupidity.

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