Search This Blog


Legislature fiddles while passing on burning budget items

Both efforts ended up the same way. That one did as it did and the other was pursued at all tells us all we need to know about the courage and priorities of the Louisiana Legislature.

Yesterday, the Legislature’s Revenue Study Commission issued its final report, which boldly stated that not all of the hundreds of tax exemptions on the books might be worthwhile, but that more data were needed to know that, and that they should be collected when they aren’t (even though common sense might have indicated creating such evaluative mechanisms each and every time another one of these was carved out), and maybe the Legislature ought to do something about this and a bunch of these exemptions. Meanwhile, dog bites man.

The same day these scintillating conclusions got broached to the wider world, another legislative panel spent 270 minutes tackling, with arguments about sequester effects, budget gimmickry accusations, and tax reform agendas swirling about competing as subjects of legislative investigation, the all-important, if not the most pressing issue of the millennia – whether the Louisiana High School Athletic Association should do as Texas has done for decades, creating separate championship classifications for public and non-public schools. At the conclusion, its members decisively moved to do nothing about what apparently legally they could do nothing about anyway.

Consider, after securing your air sick bags, that the roughly $40,000 spent on the extra per diem and travel expenses for the RSC members to congregate over the past nine months might actually have been worth telling us what we already know. It might have been worth it to find out what should be done isn’t, and the panel even provided a handy list of mooted exemptions, and another of those that at least one member thought were questionable in utility – if then in the future the first get taken off the books, and the second given serious study as a result of this.

While it was understandable that the RSC might be hesitant with the proposal by Gov. Bobby Jindal to swap income taxes for higher and more broadly collected sales taxes to go into any details about specific exemptions, at least it could addressed the slam dunk cases for elimination, an extremely limited field because so few have any data collected about them. But one in particular does, which has shown it to be incredibly wasteful from day one: the motion picture investor tax credit. Yet it couldn’t bring itself to recommend even this one’s demise, although at least it put it on the list for further study.

Still, this quivering mass of Jello at least addressed something serious. Some legislative panels called the Senate Select Committee on High School Interscholastic Athletics and the Subcommittee on High School Interscholastic Athletics of the House Committee on Education took up the separate championships topic that should be of no concern whatsoever, from a policy standpoint, to legislators.

About the only thing worth finding out was that some private schools apparently hire some blithering idiots to coach sports, being as they testified they were so concerned that the plan would "segregate" them and deny students in public schools the ability to compete against the full range of football programs in the state. As if this is important in any way to a student’s academic growth? Therefore, how would this involve the Legislature and state in any way?

Not that it even could qualify for legislative consideration, for the LHSAA is a private organization that can decide among its members, who are not coerced into joining it, that under current state law is not regulated. If these schools don’t like the new arrangement where there are championship brackets separately for public and non-public schools, they are free to leave the organization or even to set up their own as in Texas. And nothing in the new arrangement prevents these schools from scheduling to play public schools prior to any playoffs, so even the complaint about restricted opportunities is bogus.

But the most bogus thing of all is legislators wasted around $3,000 in per diem and travel money even entertaining this discussion. It did little more than add some dough to legislators’ pockets and get them a few press clippings. If they have to meet between sessions, at least it should be for important matters that policy can address. There are enough dog-and-pony shows going on in government at all levels without having to pay for more of them.

No comments: