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Amnesty not substitute for better LA fiscal practices

Courtesy of the Revenue Estimating Conference, the good news is, for the first time since the tapering of the Katrina economic bonus and the infliction of Pres. Barack Obama’s economic transformation onto America, Louisiana will have no significant mid-year budget cuts to suffer. The bad news is that tax amnesty proceeds will not turn out to be the savior that some expected but instead enhances the problematic nature of Louisiana’s fiscal system.

The REC, comprised of three politicians or their representatives and one non-elected economist, forecasts how much in the way of revenue the state will see in current and future fiscal years. As part of this exercise, it deems them recurring or nonrecurring, with the later only spendable by the state on a small set of one-time items. Beginning this year, its duties expanded when it was to forecast not just monies coming into the general fund, but also into all dedicated funds as well.

The chosen amount of recurring revenues caps the amount of money that the state may spend on its operating budget. However, creative accounting can blur the distinction between the two so the panel, perhaps guided by the skepticism of its non-politician member, did not assign all of the first round of the amnesty take to recurring status. Some of it could be considered money that would have been collected eventually thereby making it recurring, while another portion of it would be nonrecurring because it never would have been corralled without an amnesty. The political question then came down to what was the appropriate balance.


Education reformers should dismiss opponents' ploy

The light at the end of the tunnel approaches, which for advocates of educational reform in Louisiana represents escape from a suffocating structure with the ability to start in earnest improving elementary and secondary education delivery in the state, while for opponents means their political power bases are about to get knocked down by the fast approaching reform train.

At first, one might not consider these the relevant metaphors in light of state District Judge Michael Caldwell’s re-ruling that the operative piece of legislation that established the main aspects of this reform – one which makes it easier to hold educators accountable for their job performance – was unconstitutional. He restated last week a conclusion he drew last spring that the bill, Act 1 of 2012, did not adhere to the state constitutional requirement that all bills have but a single object.

But he had to reissue the ruling because the state’s Supreme Court instructed him to do so, after it had reviewed another case brought by reform opponents, challenging another reform law dealing with instituting vouchers in education using the same rationale. That the Court dismissed that part of the other challenge, explaining that the Legislature has large discretion to placing reasonably related items together in a bill where the presumption is made that such arranging is constitutional unless there is an obvious mishmash “gravely repugnant to the constitution,” demonstrates that Caldwell will end up whiffing twice on this, and on appeal will be reversed again.


Early bird Kennedy may tip himself to stay in top race

No, Louisiana Treas. John Kennedy isn’t trying to discourage opponents from contesting for the office he holds by filing his 2013 campaign finance report a month early showing a fat bankroll. Rather, he’s playing one of the few cards he has left if he entertains becoming governor in 2016.

Next month, all candidates for major office and/or who have an existing open campaign account with any activity must supply the state with paperwork on their previous year’s campaign activities, but Kennedy produced his a month early with an impressive net haul of around $600,000 last year to have cash on hand at year’s end of about $3 million. Even though he lists himself as a candidate for reelection, the size of activity and voluntary announcement early point to his real motivation of being governor.

Which, at this point, is dicey. Certain niches already are getting filled, with that of the perceived Republican moderate held by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and that of very liberal sacrificial lamb pinned on Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards. Kennedy, who has been all over the board ideologically in his past statewide attempts at office but who has been a populist throughout and recently settled on presenting himself as a conservative Republican, has a central problem in that both the populist niche and conservative niche can be filled by a better-known, better-financed, more ideologically consistent, and at least as popular Republican Sen. David Vitter, who early polls put him comfortably in the lead.


LA helps entire nation by call for constitutional convention

It may seem like tilting at windmills, but long journeys start with small steps and Louisiana should forward a resolution to call a federal constitutional convention to discuss matters related to federal government probity.

The idea builds upon a 2010 effort by state Rep. Nick Lorusso, which argued then for only a balanced budget amendment. Lorusso has indicated he would like to try again and to add at least three other matters: imposing other fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and term limitation upon members of Congress. For his part, Gov. Bobby Jindal, who will have no authority over any resolution to bring about a convention but who could lobby on its behalf, says he supports the idea of a balanced budget amendment and term limits.

According to the federal Constitution, this follows one of the two methods of proposing amendments to the document, which is two-thirds of states calling for a convention, with the other being Congress itself votes to put forward an amendment to the states for ratification. All amendments have occurred this latter way; however, often Congress has preempted the states on this matter to avoid a convention when the number of states proposing a convention to deal with an amendment has gotten close to two-thirds of the whole, so by passing this resolution Louisiana creates more pressure for Congress to repeat in this way.


Numbers show looming disaster for LA Democrats

While the article that appeared in the Baton Rouge/New Orleans Advocate on voting registration trends in Louisiana and what they might mean provided some interesting information, it could use some elaboration that could have been provided in its text had the reporter interviewed political scientists in addition to just campaign consultants, that should underscore a future of continued Republican success and a looming Democrat disaster.

Disappointingly, the piece’s headline diverged from the reality of the text, proclaiming that “Voters skew away from mainstream parties” when in fact the only party experiencing “skew” is composed of Democrats (or, the headline writer made a huge Freudian slip by not considering the Republicans a “mainstream” party, although the use of plural suggests that was not the intent). The body made clear that Democrats were losing huge numbers while Republicans and no party/other designations (there are three other recognized minor parties but with registration totals that among all of them don’t reach five digits, changes in their raw totals are insignificant) were gaining. More properly, voters are skewing away only from the Democrats.

But even as the GOP continues to gain registrants, according to the most recent statistics at a pace of nearly 11 percent or around 77,000 since the 2008 election while Democrats have dropped over 139,000 or about 9 percent, no party/other voters’ numbers got a boost in that period of over 78,000 or above 12 percent. These numbers that otherwise might make a Democrat wince some try to assuage by arguing the party, which almost two years ago had black registrants top whites for the first time ever, continues to pick up more solid black voters replacing less reliable white ones, the latter group they assert by their decision to switch or their generational replacement by others merely ratifying on paper their cohort’s already less reliable voting behavior for Democrats, has experienced little change in electoral potential.