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Democrats start negative onslaught against Cassidy

Likely dispirited from a debate that did nothing to change the race’s dynamics, and with panic rising after more and intense polling confirmation that Sen. Mary Landrieu’s campaign was on the ropes, expect now that Louisiana Democrats will engage in the most terrific mudslinging ever seen in the state in order to stop Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy from poaching her current seat.

With several recent polls all showing Cassidy having a heads-up lead, some beyond a poll’s margin of error, Democrats prayerfully hoped Cassidy would make some extremely controversial utterance in the course of the first of two candidate debates, held previously this week. He didn’t, perhaps because of the mundane mien of the gastroenterologist that some find a liability.

Which, in the reduced state Democrats find themselves in, suddenly has become an attack line. According to (the only Louisiana) Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond, who nobody ever could mistake for being a medical doctor or even reasonably intelligent when making remarks like this, Cassidy is “weird,” and lacking the ability to say anything of substance about Cassidy falls back to playing the race card in the inane accusation that Cassidy’s campaign is all about “a picture of a black man [Pres. Barack Obama] and a white woman [Landrieu] up there in Louisiana to stoke fear and all the worst feelings in people.”


Inconsequential debate makes Cassidy its "winner"

The public television 2014 Senate election debate for Louisiana has come and gone, which served to reinforce existing support for the two major and one mid-major candidates, and really contributed nothing else.

Let’s face it, on the whole “debates” (they aren’t really, more like forums where candidates try to answer as much as possible in the way the want to as much as possible regardless of the questions with little depth given to these) only cause any significant shifts in support that last any length of time when candidates say something controversial, if not stupid. Nothing of the sort happened; when the most outlandish thing said, by the Republican major candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy (a medical doctor) that he favored letting people hoot up for medical reasons while his mid-major GOP compatriot Rob Maness and the major Democrat involved incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu refused to join him, you know the needle won’t move as a result of this.

Little in the way of new details emerged in terms of policy preferences. Cassidy and Maness differed on little, while Landrieu skittishly tried to sidestep articulating any specific position on most of these items by both spinning general platitudes and trying to meld answers into touting experience. When asked for specifics, she almost imperceptibly glided to broad generalities. For his part, Cassidy used these to draw contrasts with Landrieu along the lines of tying unpopular policies she supports and the slightly-more-popular-than-Ebola-incinerated-waste Pres. Barack Obama around her neck, while Maness played up what few differences he had with Cassidy while noting the more numerous of those with Landrieu.

Bad news possibly good news for McAllister reelection

In Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District contest, a new poll shows it’s still a matter of pushmi-pullyu for Democrats relative to strategy, while for Republicans too many cooks threaten to spoil the broth – leaving the object of the bad news from this week perhaps better off as a result.

An Alabama-based group conducted this effort and in a sense confirmed the common wisdom that the only Democrat and black in the race in a district the registration of which is almost half Democrat and one-third black, Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, leads the way with 19 percent, and embattled incumbent Republican Rep. Vance McAllister comes in second at 17 percent, and would hold down runoff spots. Apparently moving up and into third with 13 percent is salesman Zach Dasher, related to the Duck Commander family which had supported McAllister in his initial special election bid for the office but who now declare the incumbent anathema, while leader of the previous independent poll Dr. Ralph Abraham seemingly has slumped into fourth at 11 percent.

Mayo’s singular status and McAllister’s incumbency would make sensible that they lead, but with nobody getting endorsement of even a fifth of the sample shows the contest remains wide open. Most notably, McAllister continues to fall, now down ten points from the first such poll, consistent with the idea that the later the campaign proceeds, the less advantageous his default incumbent status becomes as voters learn more about the other options. That other candidates in the contest have not cracked double-digits shows they likely are to be left in the dust, although with 21 percent of the sample still undecided it’s not impossible one could emerge.


Even for coast, LA processing tax unneeded, bad idea

The idea of a processing tax on energy production in Louisiana is not new. Nor is its endorsement by one who sees energy producers as piƱatas waiting to be busted anything new. What’s new is when a usually-sensible tax-cutting advocate adds support to an inferior idea that will siphon out of Louisianans' wallets hundreds of millions of dollars for no good reason.

The leftist involved here is author John Barry, late of one of the state’s two regional flood protection authorities and prime instigator of a jackpot justice suit against nearly 100 companies that have produced petroleum over the decades around the state’s coast. He envisions billions of dollars sliced from them to be put towards coastal restoration.

On that matter he rightly is chastised by columnist Quin Hillyer, who lends the Baton Rouge Advocate his considerable writing and critical thinking talents, now housed at perhaps the country’s premier opinion journal National Review, on an episodic basis. But in an intellectual lapse, he joins Barry in promoting the processing tax idea, a revived Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy that would tax each barrel of oil or cubic foot of gas that comes into Louisiana’s processing pipeline from the coastal area, whether extracted, transported, or imported.


Decrease budget guessing by requiring modified accrual

Regardless of the explanation of how it got there, the asserted budget surplus for Louisiana to close Fiscal Year 2014 becomes real only through a political process that would benefit from some less ambiguous legal specifications.

Last week, the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration declared FY 2014 ended with a surplus of about $178.5 million. But apparently $319 million of that came from an accounting change that caught Treasurer John Kennedy by surprise, leading him to muse whether there was a $141.5 million deficit as computed under some theoretically previous standard.

He hypothesized that discovery of these surplus funds may have come because of a shift of basis of accounting from the modified accrual basis to a cash basis. In essence, that means that balances would be computed by cash inflows and outflows and what was physically on hand, not adjusted for some anticipated, with varying degrees of certainty, receipts and disbursements and disregarding others that would be off the books. That would be unusual for the state to head in that direction because of the 1999 pronouncement of the Government Accounting and Standards Board Statement #34 which said for most things governments should report using the modified accrual basis, so deviation from that in budgeting would complicate reporting, and also for complex organizations like state governments cash basis accounting provides more limited information for decision-making.