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College budgeting bill creates wrong spending incentives

Don’t be fooled when state Rep. Walt Leger claims his HB 222 is about fairness – it’s about populism that cripples Louisiana’s ability to induce competent and efficient use of taxpayer resources when it comes to higher education.

The bill, which recently passed out of its House committee without dissent on its way to another, would amend the Constitution so that in years where tuition and fees at universities exceeded the previous year’s total, that would prevent any reduction in state support, except when the state forecasts an overall budget deficit when a slight reduction may occur. It does not exactly specify that it is the previous year’s state appropriation out of general and dedicated funds level that is to be maintained, but that would be inferred. If passed by voters this fall, it would take effect at the beginning of fiscal year 2016, presumably supplanting the GRAD Acts formula that now determines state support.

Leger framed his argument in terms of “fairness” in that supplanting self-generated for taxpayer-generated revenues the state therefore in a sense, because it was reducing its own commitment while asking students (assuming the increase in self-generated revenue came from increases in fees and tuition as opposed to more students showing up more often) for more was reneging on a commitment to provide better education quality – as if the only variable in determining the quality of higher education was financial resources.


Kennedy's hypocrisy shouldn't distract budgeting debate

It doesn’t mean necessarily he was entirely wrong, just that he was entirely a hypocrite when Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy voted against a recent State Bond Commission action for the reason he stated.

Last week, the SBC took up a proposal to pay off $210 million in debt prior to the end of this fiscal year Jun. 30. By doing so, in essence it could forward that amount of money into next fiscal year to pay for operating expenses, which is incorporated in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget. This passed 13-1 with only Kennedy, by law the chairman of the SBC, dissenting.

His public remarks explained his vote: he claimed the money did not come from unencumbered, recurring sources but rather from unpredictable, bonus kinds of money that more properly should not be recycled in a way that they could be spent on future, recurring items. While entirely legal, he decried the move violated the spirit of wise budgeting practice and likened it to using a credit card to pay off a monthly bill that only will reappear a month later.


Stuck on stupid XXVI: Putting unions before taxpayers

Yes, Louisiana continues to be stuck on stupid, as evidenced by the failure of its House of Representatives to refuse a special carve-out favoring teacher unions that could put taxpayers on the hook for an undetermined sum of money.

HB 45 by Republican state Rep. Alan Seabaugh would have closed the privilege afforded to officers (and employees of one) of four teachers unions and other associations that allowed teachers on leave that took these jobs, whether on temporary or permanent leave, to have the state continue to pay its share of retirement, and also those who worked for certain federal health care clinics (only one in the state has it employees in the appropriate state retirement system), for those hired after Sep. 1, 2014. The logic was very simple: people not employed by the state should not be members of any retirement system to which the state and its taxpayers were responsible for contributions, both regular contributions and those to wipe out unfunded accrued liabilities.

A no-brainer if there ever was one, for by treating non-state employees as state employees it not only costs money, but makes taxpayers liable for indeterminate costs well into the future that has nothing to do with service delivery or policy choices. In the case of the two unions involved, this saves them tens of thousands of dollars a year that they then can turn around and use to influence government. The whole idea that taxpayers should subsidize a special interest that brings zero benefits to the state and could use its saved resources to try to use the state to create further advantages for itself should insult any free human being.


Bills make needed changes to LA flood control authorities

That the opposition to flood protection authority reform now has focused on legislation not even started in the process of becoming law shows its fear that what has looked like a political defeat will intensify into a rout, but quite a necessary one.

Spurred by a politicized decision by one of the two regional authorities to pursue (if somewhat hypocritically) jackpot justice against alleged oil company practices that at best rests on dubious claims, a number of bills were filed in the session of the Louisiana Legislature to bring more accountability to entities that otherwise have few constraints to act politically rather than in the best interests of the people. What particularly galled those against these suits was contingency fees that appear to have been negotiated against state law that could reward trial lawyers with fees in the billions of dollars.

Most of these filed by state Sen. Robert Adley, who until his retirement in 2012 ran a gas management company, they represent various and disparate approaches to injecting accountability into these boards, some focusing on appointments to them, removals from them, powers exercisable, and organizational questions. Other bills would negate in essence the questionable suit or would force it to be more specific and redirect any proceeds.