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Chicken hawks on the verge of becoming real budget hawks?

Perhaps a group of mostly Republican state representatives who style themselves as purists for sound state budgetary practices and results finally are evolving from a politicized, “chicken hawk” approach to a true “budget hawk” position that genuinely can improve Louisiana’s fiscal situation.

Formally organizing their enthusiasms as the Louisiana Budget Reform Coalition in the past few months, more than a year prior to that various group members have criticized some long-standing budgetary tactics employed in the executive budget and ratified by the Legislature. Drawing their special scorn has been the practice of using “one-time” money to provide some funding, generally in the range of 1-2 percent, of operating expenses. “One-time money” has come to mean a lot of things, but generally as used it includes funds from one-off transactions such as sale of government assets or a windfall of some kind and monies dedicated for a certain purpose that gets used for another courtesy of a supplemental appropriations bill called a “funds sweep.”

But their problem to date has been they have used the idea mostly as a political cudgel that sounds great and scores points for election purposes, but actually prevented any real progress in improving the state’s fiscal structure. Their great bane, one-time money, they declared a pox upon in advocating it never be used to fund operating expenses, but never seemed to grasp it was just a symptom of the real disease wherein lay the true cause of budgeting distress.


Colleges remain unserious about enacting needed change

While it’s an intriguing idea, Louisiana higher education’s attempt to free itself from legislative control of tuition seems neither legally valid nor addresses the fundamental problems ailing it and higher education in general.
According to the Board of Regents, members now doubt whether individual colleges raising tuition rates necessarily must go through the Legislature to do so, as it appears they would courtesy of a 1995 constitutional amendment (now Art. VII, Sec. 2.1) that reads “Any … increase in an existing fee or civil fine imposed or assessed by the state or any board, department, or agency of the state shall require the enactment of a law by a two-thirds vote of the elected members of each house of the legislature.” Enough doubt seemed to exist about whether tuition counted that a year later an attorney general’s (96-353) opinion needed issuing to confirm that, where it said that as the mission of higher education was to provide exactly that, a charge for anything directly related to that constituted a fee.
This upset in particular new Regent Edward Markle, who declared, “A fee is for a driver’s license or a speeding ticket. Tuition is something you pay for yourself voluntarily. It’s not a fee you pay the government; you pay it to educate yourself.” Such a statement makes one wonder whether Markle might be the best choice in a matter of legal representation if you want to win your case.


Greedy film crowd wishes to keep snouts in LA trough

Finally, it seems state officials have come to their senses about the massive transfer of taxpayer wealth from Louisiana citizens to a small coterie of professional makers of mainly schlock cinema. Which has those same bloodsuckers and star-struck political backers up in arms to try to derail efforts to bring sanity to the state’s motion picture tax credit program.

As part of his tax swap proposal, Gov. Bobby Jindal seeks to limit the usability of this device, which allows producers to take 30 percent or more of their costs and use them to decrease one-to-one Louisiana tax liability. This he hopes to accomplish by limiting the salary range to $1 million for a production.

Which, of course, would rule the high-priced talent needed to make such American Film Institute, Smithsonian-destined cinema masterpieces such as Drive Angry and Olympus Has Fallen impossible to qualify for much of their expenses. And has caused none other than the state’s highest-priced bellhop, Secretary of Economic Development Stephen Moret whose agency oversees then program, a past vigorous defender of it, suddenly to talk of altering the program to find efficiencies and better return on the dollar.


Compelling LA tax swap case at risk from demagoguery

It would be a major blunder by the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration to let its tax swap plan falter because it allowed empty demagoguery to triumph over intellectually superior, economically beneficial, and individually empowering ideas.

Too often forgotten by conservatives, at least among those who aren’t populists, is that the increased intellectual demands underpinning their philosophy make cognitive demands on many unfamiliar with its study that causes what appears obvious to its articulators not to be understood fully by those receivers. (Conservatives of the populist kind, like liberals in general, base their belief more on emotion and faith with the consequent reduced ability to explain intellectually why they accept it as the superior understanding of why the world works as it does.) And it’s the practicality of translating abstract ideas into information for mass consumption that may make or break the plan.

In essence, the plan eliminates all state income taxes in favor of an increased sales tax on more items, provides income support for individuals making $20,000 or less in earning or those drawing retirement pay at $60,000 or less, eliminates some exceptions to the tax code while retaining those designed to shield basic necessities from sales taxes, and raises taxes dramatically on tobacco consumption. The state calculates the net impact to be a small gain to the lowest-income earners with higher gains for highest-income earners, while business may end up paying more but will be advantaged by lower administrative costs and an increased amount of revenue with more money in the mass public freed up to be spent.


LA Catholics should find beneficial continuity with Francis

As with his predecessor, the accession of Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio to the papacy as Francis should prove to benefit the Church in Louisiana.

In his nearly eight years, Benedict XVI brought needed stability to the Church increasingly under pressure that came from both within and without for it to become something that it wasn’t through demands to alter its core principles. At the same time, he also had to tackle the internal problem of escalating incidents and numbers (even if just a tiny fraction of the whole) of priests and religious committing sexual abuse, introduced when the Church let its guard down post-Vatican II, that was allowed to fester.

The response wasn’t altogether satisfactory because of the hidebound nature of bureaucracy, which the Vatican, like any large organization created by man, is not immune to suffering its implications. As an insider, Benedict had certain strengths to tackle the decay from within the church (where, unfortunately America has been a leader in this regard) that begins in the seminaries and extends from there, and correction should be on its way.