Search This Blog


Amnesty reliance may backfire on budget reformers

As the state's fiscal years concludes, again one must wonder whether the penchant for the group of budget reformers known as the “fiscal hawks” to put style over substance is going to lead to worse fiscal problems for Louisiana.

The “hawks,” who forged an identity by declaring jihad against “one-time money,” or recurring funds collected from sources outside of the state general fund and nonrecurring money from things like asset sales and legal settlements, made the use of a tax amnesty program as the centerpiece of a plan to wash away a lot of one-time money from the recently-passed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. This was despite the irony and hypocrisy that amnesty proceeds either were nonrecurring in nature or one-time money themselves.

Of greater concern, and richer in both irony and hypocrisy, is that the use of amnesty now is defended on the basis of it being a more “stable” funding that will hit the $200 million mark inserted into the budget. This notion fails both conceptually and quantitatively, with history showing in fact the state is unlikely to collect that much this year (this is supposed to be drawn out over almost three years).


Vitter, Jindal plotting on job swap would serve both

Given that I was asked about it on a radio program yesterday and an opinion writer pondered about it recently, it’s a good time to review the possibility that if Gov. Bobby Jindal has political aspirations beyond Louisiana, that these may include if needed an attempt to land in the U.S. Senate next year.

Since my previous post on the matter right after his reelection and another a few months ago, several things have happened. The 2014 contest is shaping up with the entrance of Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, the heaviest-weight opponent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu ever has drawn. A year down the road from then, it is looking more likely that Sen. David Vitter will pursue, and if so would become the favorite to succeed in, the chance to replace Jindal. As for the governor, he doesn’t seem to be making much progress if he wishes to capture the 2016 nomination for the presidency among Republicans.

As a result of the 2012 elections, the decision about the presidency was forced more onto Jindal. There would be no GOP incumbent running in 2016 so he either has to go all in now or not at all. But that means his next opportunity could be as far away as 2024, which would make for him sitting out nine years unless he finagled a cabinet slot in a GOP presidency if that chance presented itself – out of sight, out of mind is not a good recipe to win the White House. And with his uncertain prospects for a 2016 nomination, only the Senate provides a quick opportunity as he would have to wait until 2019 to run for governor again because of term limits and probably would face an incumbent for a difficult comeback.


Even with improved odds, override session unlikely

While threats of a veto override session may ring in the air from a relatively wide swath of legislators, even increased chances this year of one occurring mean instead of being extremely unlikely to happen, it’s merely very unlikely to occur.

The Constitution provides for an automatic override session held by the Legislature, unless a majority of members in at least one chamber calls it off by sending in a ballot to their presiding officer stating as such within 35 days after the end of the regular session. This never has happened in the four decades under this version of the Constitution.

Two factors tend to discourage the impulse to have one of these sessions. One is the override requirement of two-thirds majorities in each chamber. With just a pair of vetoes ever overridden during regular sessions in these 40 years, governors have shown they have figured out when to cast vetoes that stick because of the extra votes needed beyond passage or those needed that allow an override session to happen. So even as it matters to have a majority wishing to override vetoes, unless they know they can pull in additional supporters for the override votes that are unlikely to come from those who sent in ballots to cancel the thing, having an extra session is useless.


Breakaway govts proper response for better performance

Supporters of a new independent school district in southeastern East Baton Rouge Parish figure perhaps the third time is that charm in upping their ante by exploring the possibility of creating a new municipality, which may create desirable ripple effects beyond just that objective

In 2011, advocates of district creation first tried but failed to get the Legislature to do so. To do this, two things must happen: a law must define the district and its governance structure, and the Constitution must be amended to include it in the Minimum Foundation Program for funding. This year, they got halfway by getting the law passed, but the amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority in each legislative chamber and then an affirmative vote of the state’s people, didn’t get to a vote in the House after the Senate moved it on.

Some legislators publicly stated they had qualms about doing the unprecedented act of dividing a district built around a single local governing unit. While most local school districts in the state have the same boundaries as parishes, the few that don’t either have boundaries coterminous with municipalities or with parishes minus those districts built around municipalities in that parish. The same issue had arisen in the early 2000s with the desire to create the Central Community School System. After some failed attempts to get the district established, the city of Central was created, and the district passed legislative muster two years later.


Legislators to fumble adding new disability spending?

Unfortunately, caught in the crossfire of budgetary struggling between the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration and the Legislature is funding for several programs dealing with the developmentally disabled, and regardless that one institution remains more culpable than the other,  some potential progress on increased service provision likely is lost as a result.

With Monday being the deadline for gubernatorial decisions on regular and line-item vetoes for legislation passed late in the 2013 regular session, on Friday Jindal announced line-item vetoes for the state’s operating budget HB 1. Although altogether they totaled about $6 million, they involved more than half of all such vetoes cast.

These vetoes were of five kinds. One set, totaling $950,000, excised money from each of the nine human service districts that was earmarked to fund Individual and Family Support Programs, which provide assistance not available from any other of the several other Department of Health and Hospitals programs to help people with developmental disabilities to live in their own homes or with their families in their own community. Another set removed the addition of 200 New Opportunity Waiver slots (which would create a recurring annual commitment of around $25,600 per slot) to allow for the same.