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Priorities, not taxes or restructuring, to help LA roads

Did Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy, a potential 2015 gubernatorial candidate, recently give a green light to tax increases for transportation? If so, he’s off the more solid ground he occupies in his lectures of the virtues of prioritization.

Kennedy, in speaking to the Transportation Funding Task Force, noted that the public was wary of any additional funding requests for roads building and maintenance unless it was convinced these were carried out in a fashion that reflected true needs of the state, citing other spending uses of capital funds on construction projects that very few would call an important priority. The group is to meet four times prior to next year’s legislative session to give recommendations on how enable the state to eat into a roughly $10 billion backlog of roads requests.

If Kennedy meant he was open to a tax increase to do this, he would be joining for him unusual company. Also on the panel is a former secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development, Kam Movassaghi, who made it a habit during his tenure than encompassed the last six years of the former Gov. Mike Foster Administration to call for tax increases. Even now, one recommendation he wants the group to forward would be to replace the existing regular gasoline tax, the main source of funding for roads, of 16 cents per gallon with an 8 percent levy, which at present oil prices would work out to be around a 50 percent increase, arguing that the tax has less than half of its purchasing power when it was enacted three decades ago.

Can keg stand disguise far left record of Landrieu?

What has allowed Sen. Mary Landrieu to hang on in the U.S. Senate swimming against a stronger and stronger current is exactly the same thing that most likely will end her elected political career this year.

Consider Landrieu’s predicament. In the ex-Confederate states (Virginia, with its northern population tied with an umbilical cord to the big government liberalism of Washington, D.C. excepted), only four Democrats survive in the Senate (with two running for reelection also this year and endangered like Landrieu). Of the six times they have run, none has won by less than Landrieu’s biggest win ever in 2008. And while undoubtedly the presidential ticket of Democrats that won 52 percent of Louisiana’s vote in 1996 helped her win by an official count of fewer than 6,000 votes, in subsequent presidential elections Republicans would take the state with 53, 57, 59, and 58 percent of the vote. In her last election, she remarkably ran ahead of her own ticket some 12 percent.

Her last name does help; would anybody have paid attention to some 23-year-old sorority chick running for the Legislature without a famous last name in the world of state politics, much less have elected her? But the name only paid the entry fee to country club membership; as things transpired, she turned out more than capable of keeping up with the annual dues.


Fix sessions & blight, no on other LA amendments

If you like dealing with constitutional amendments, then you’ll love the Nov. 4 ballot with 14 of them. As a public service for Louisianans faced with making rational decisions on this, here we go with whirlwind recommendations:

#1 – no. This not only would lock in nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rates and put pressure on cutting rates for home- and community-based care, but have them automatically increase – even as legally the state must move people out of institutional care. The lack of budget flexibility introduced almost assuredly would lead to higher taxes, legal difficulties, and reduced funding for the only other significant area that would not be protected, higher education (more information is here).

#2 – no. This allows hospitals to increase prices to sock away in a special protected fund. Similar to #1, it also reduces budgetary flexibility, encouraging tax increases in addition to the indirect “sick tax” and cuts elsewhere (more information is here).


If not solid, Greenstein perjury case may cost LA

So former Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals Bruce Greenstein has joined an illustrious list of major state officeholders in Louisiana in garnering an indictment for activities related to his office. As the saga unfolds, the risk the state takes financially in pursuing this course of action is far greater than the chances of any wider malfeasance being uncovered.

Forced out of office last year, Greenstein did a low-key perpetrator walk last week upon being charged formally with nine counts of lying to both the Louisiana Senate and a parish grand jury while under oath. These charges stemmed from his testimony about relations with a past successful bidder for a state Medicaid claims processing contract to Client Network Services Inc., where it is alleged he covered up communications designed to help the firm win this, to which he pled not guilty. After the federal government started an investigation, then joined by the state, leading to Greenstein departure, the state cancelled the contract, which has led to the firm suing the state for breach.

While no specifics have been made public, thousands of messages in text and telephonic form were exchanged between Greenstein and the company in time period encompassed in the awarding process. The charges allege the content of these were instrumental in giving a competitive advantage to CNSI. After awarding to it but before cancellation, already CNSI requests for changes and extra money were fueling the credibility of complaints from competitors that CNSI had lowballed to win, even after promising it would ask for no such adjustments.