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Last chance debate shows unsuitability of participants

Defying the expectation that after seven televised debates viewers possibly could learn anything new about Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, they did: in tonight’s edition, they learned why each by way of personality is unsuitable to be governor of Louisiana.

Actually, in the case of Democrat Edwards, it was continued confirmation. On this occasion, it came down to a matter of lack of trust that he would not hit Louisianans with massive tax increases to fund his never-ending spending promises despite his claiming he won’t raise taxes. Let’s see, he wants to excise entirely the portion gasoline tax dollars that goes to the state police, costing $60 million this year although by law to be reduced in future years (with this representing 0.5 percent of the entire roads backlog, so it really doesn’t solve anything). He wants to double the Earned Income Tax Credit, meaning about $50 million in forgone revenue collection. He wants to equalize self-generated revenues of Louisiana higher education with the taxpayer’s proportion, which this year would have meant finding another $103 million (and he pledges no more tuition increases, so this figure will go higher). He wants to expand Medicaid immediately, which for FY 2016 would cost the state at least $18 million but by FY 2030 is forecast to cost an additional $574 million annually.

Just what he promised on these items during the debate equals at least $231 million more for a state, in order to balance its budget, that this year raised taxes more than three times that amount, of which he voted in favor of over $400 million in additional tax liability that will be experienced directly by or passed on to consumers and by income-earning individuals. All along, Edwards has held out the paring of tax exemptions, curiously disregarding that these do often entail tax increases (when not in the form of rebates), as the uber-solution to what ails the budget. It’s nothing more than an appeal to Louisiana’s populist history, promising all sorts of things as if it were a gift to the people but hiding the fact that they ultimately pay for it. You can’t trust a guy who doesn’t tell you that upfront and continues to insist he won’t raise taxes, and that disqualifies him from any serious consideration for the office.

BESE outcomes could halt needed education reforms

They aren’t make-or-break, but elections later this week to Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education could blunt the pace of education reform in the state.

All eight elected spots appear on Saturday’s ballot and in an indirect fashion so do the other three appointive positions. The governor selects these members for terms concurrent with the elected members with an eye towards supporting his policy preferences, and with a new man coming on board it’s likely none of the members currently serving will get invited back by someone wanting to put his own stamp of authority onto BESE.

Three issues played large roles in the term now concluding: accountability for all of schools, districts, and teachers; school choice; and usage/implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. By no means is BESE the determinative factor in policy-making on these accounts; in fact, its role is minor compared to the governor’s and Legislature’s.


Media debate critiques based on their self-interests

Seems that in 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial debates are as common as pairs bared on Bourbon Street during Carnival. Which is why whatever flaws observers may suggest with them that they allege need correcting makes for much ado about nothing.

Last night there was the sixth televised mostly statewide where at least three of the major candidates participated. The 99 percent of the electorate that typically tunes these out shouldn’t worry about missing anything as long as they’ve seen at least one, since it gave yet another chance for Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle to speak French, for Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne to say he might raise taxes, and for state Rep. John Bel Edwards another chance to lie about Medicaid expansion (the newest one being that states that accept it can get out of it, when the legal analysis and political ramifications of Arkansas’ experience prove otherwise), and for all of them to moan and gripe about Republican Sen. David Vitter not attending and to make sport of him in his absence.

Of course, of that 99 percent, about 99 percent of them will have had no plans to watch one of these or the last of these prior to the general election this weekend. To almost every voter, these are seen not as chances to inform, but as interruptions to their television viewing schedules. So when the chattering classes get upset about the presentation of these, it’s really a tempest in a teapot.


Senators must disregard Medicaid expansion myths

Today, Louisiana’s Senate Finance Committee will converge to discuss Medicaid costs. Undoubtedly part of the discussion will include expansion of Medicaid and its impact on the state’s budget, which continues to face pressure. Forces with an ideological motive to see the U.S. move towards government single-payer insurance have promoted a mythology about expansion that continually confuses debate on the subject. As a public service, myth and reality on this topic are explored here.

Myth: Medicaid expansion has saved states money.

Fact: The program deliberately was front-loaded with the federal government picking up all the provider costs for the first three years, although states did have to pay administrative costs. It could be argued that all the federal dollars being redistributed about could make certain states winners, although this ignores that, if left uncollected from taxes and/or through the consequences of increased debt, allowing earners of this money to keep it would have resulted in more efficient uses of it that may increase economic activity beyond that artificially stimulated by the redistribution into health care spending by government. Further, some states had state-run programs that could be passed off to the federal government in very large part because of expansion.

But the data show that many states on balance have seen huge cost increases well beyond what was anticipated by expansion, because they underestimated costs – new enrollees who were predicted to actually cost less ended up costing on average 19 percent more – and enrollments – where almost all states have seen more enrollees than expected. The overall number of enrollees climbed a stunning 28 percent, with some states underestimating enrollments and costs by at least half. Go figure – give something away, and more people using more of it want it.


The Advocate column: Oct. 18. 2015

John Bel Edwards' actions show he's no social conservative