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Going over cliff brings some benefits to LA fiscal house

Hopes have dimmed considerably that the federal government will address the “fiscal cliff,” or the combination of tax increases and spending cuts created by last year’s budget deal among Democrat Pres. Barack Obama, a Democrat-led Senate, and a Republican-led House, before the Dec. 31 deadline, after which those go into effect. And that may turn out as a net benefit to Louisiana, at least as far as the direct impact of individual income tax changes.

Some have wailed and gnashed their teeth over the prospect. One estimate argues that the deal would cost the state 28,000 jobs as taxes go up on just about everybody and federal spending is curtailed. In addition, as federal income taxes may be written off from those for the state, an increase in those means less revenue for Louisiana.

Other complain that the impending changes will affect the poor negatively, especially in that Louisiana ties its earned income tax credit and child care tax credit breaks to the presence of the federal ones, which would go away. The former affects only the lowest income earners, while the latter allows disproportionately more money to stay in the pockets of the lower earners and subsidizes a special interest industry.


Internecine quarreling makes group, state look amateurish

What’s a holiday season without lots of bickering among family? That’s the situation facing auctioneers in Louisiana and provides an object lesson into why elected officials, despite far larger policy concerns, need to keep an eye on state licensing bodies.

In the state, one must have a license to be an auctioneer, and the Louisiana Auctioneers Licensing Board regulates that and industry practices, being comprised of five members, one each from Public Service Commission districts who are licensed auctioneers, and two at-large consumer representatives. All are appointed by the governor, concurrent with his term, with Senate confirmation, and serve at his pleasure. Typically, there is much carryover from governor to governor, term to term.

But on Sep. 10, 2010, Gov. Bobby Jindal took the unusual step to remove one of his appointees, Robert Burns. No public reason ever was stated for this, but undoubtedly stemmed from the fact that increasingly Burns, often allied with another auctioneer member of the panel the Rev. Freddie Phillips, clashed with the remainder of the Board on some votes, where the Board’s voting history demonstrated typically unanimity, dealing with issues such as spending, procedures for charitable auctioning, and individual licensing decisions. In the past couple of years, Burns and Phillips separately have sued the association for alleged violations of procedure. The pair also went about creating a new professional association for auctioneers, the Louisiana Association of Professional Auctioneers, in competition with the existing Louisiana Auctioneers Association, Inc., citing their group as one that held itself to a higher ethical standard.


Christmas Day, 2012

This column publishes usually every Sunday through Thursday after noon (sometimes even before; maybe even after sundown on busy days) U.S. Central Time except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Independence Day or Christmas or New Year's when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are six of these: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas.

With Tuesday, Dec. 25 being Christmas Day, I invite you to explore this link.


Shreveport govt seems unaware of new law's pitfalls

After years of talk, Shreveport enacted a few months ago some kind of minimum property standards for rental housing. Its City Council every two months is to review reports on city enforcement of property standards. As the year ends, maybe it's time they looked how how Ordinance 11 of 2012 is working out.

Much as some think they can repeal them or pretend that they don’t exist, politicians cannot avoid the law of supply and demand. They need to realize two corollaries as they apply to the situation where people live in housing that does not have entirely working plumbing, electricity, flaws in construction, etc.: people may choose to live in this housing because it’s all they can afford, and by far leading reason why housing can deteriorate into this condition is because of the people who live in it.

Among many policy-makers and a good chunk of the chattering classes the idea that certain behavioral choices indicated a moral defect that thrust responsibility for the consequences of that behavior on its doers has fallen by the wayside in favor of the idea that circumstance beyond their control “forced” them to do certain things. Because fault no longer was assigned to them, instead parts of or all of society not only had to pay collectively those costs, but also had to permit and even subsidize continuance of the behavior.


Legislators want strong gov.; critics exaggerate to bash

Every so often, perhaps goaded by statements emanating from some legislative elites or other outsider malcontents over the direction of gubernatorial policy, it seems some handwringing must occur in Louisiana’s media about the presumed powerful office of governor. On these occasions, it’s important to remember just why this happens and exactly what it means – which is a whole lot less alarmist than some breathless advocates would have one believe.

Yes, Louisiana’s governor can find himself in a position to influence strongly policy emerging from the Louisiana Legislature. Remarkably, it does not come from the formal powers of the office, which, according to a long-standing metric created by an academic researcher to assess formal powers of governors, are modest ranking right below the top third of all the states. Rather, they come from using other means. Often, three of these less formal avenues are identified.

First, the governor enjoys a line-item veto power on appropriations bills, requiring two-thirds majorities on each cast in order to overrides, which seemingly cows legislators into supporting him as they value stuff coming into their districts that makes them look better to constituents for reelection purposes. Second, the State Bond Commission makes funding choices from capital budget requests forwarded by the Legislature, which the governor can control through allies who owe their appointments to him, which serve the same function by delivering stuff to constituents. They have these jobs because the governor helps get them elected to leadership positions in their respective chambers by marshalling coalitions through the chicken-and-egg process of promising assistance in making sure their pet projects avoid line-item vetoes.