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Edwards must emulate Jindal mental health care move

It turns out that former Gov. Bobby Jindal had it right. Now if only Louisiana’s current Gov. John Bel Edwards would follow through.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice gigged the state for excessive institutionalization of mentally ill individuals. A letter to Edwards noted that Louisiana maintained too few options to treat such individuals in the community rather than in hospitals or nursing homes. Moreover, the document noted that unless the state came to some kind of agreement that began expanding community placements at the expense of institutionalization, the federal government would pursue legal action.

The problem begins with Louisiana having too many nursing home beds. Historically, public policy has favored nursing home interests, to the absurd point now that the state pays tens of millions of dollars annually to maintain empty beds in private facilities. This has given the state one of the highest per capita number of beds in the country, ranking fourth highest among the states (2014 data) and thereby diverts dollars that could go to home- and community-based programs.


LA policy should encourage buying flood insurance

Reaction to a provision in the recovery action plan for 2016 in Louisiana highlights the moral hazard involved in disaster relief, and suggests how the state can reduce that by judicious future policy-making.

Through next Tuesday public comment remains open regarding the Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration plan to deal with the flooding that occurred mainly in northern part of the state in the spring and in the southern part in the summer. As the funding for relief comes not in the typical fashion – instead of through the Disaster Relief Fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration rather by way of a Community Development Block Grant through the Department of Housing and Urban Development – the state must develop a plan according to HUD rules and solicit for two weeks’ commentary from the public. This approach also makes likely much higher payouts per home than through the standard FEMA use of the DRF.

As far as distribution eligibility, HUD has few rules, but given what state policy-makers consider a low amount appropriated for the size of the disaster in the first tranche of money, it established additional rules that it plans to submit to HUD. One is that aid will go only to those individuals who live outside the 100-year flood plain; that is, the area in question has a less than one percent chance of flooding in any given year. This rule has riled some who lived in such areas but declined purchasing insurance, who now must hope the second and any later tranches include them.


Reform LA higher education before frisking taxpayers

You can whine about a problem or get busy trying to solve it. Louisiana State University’s leadership prefers the former approach while some students affected by reductions in Taylor Opportunity Program for Students awards have opted for the latter.

When appearing earlier this month in front of the House Appropriations Committee as part of its budget vetting, System Pres. F. King Alexander moaned about how that cut, which causes in the case of LSU a couple of thousand fewer dollars made available for each student to pay his tuition, might discourage LSU students in the spring. He used this as another example to argue that taxpayers must fork over more to higher education, who collectively want $100 million more in general fund money and $89 million put into TOPS to allow it to pay at 100 percent again.

That view ignores the facts that, when considering the per capita income of Louisiana and its relative ranking to other states (34th), its average tuition and fees for senior institution (29th – but this doesn’t include TOPS that would lower its placement several positions even if less than half-funded), and state support per full-time enrollee (33rd), these balance pretty well. While taxpayer ability to pay seems fairly maximized, if anything students could pay more.


Christmas Day, 2016

This column publishes usually every Sunday through Thursday after noon (sometimes even before; maybe even after sundown on busy days) U.S. Central Time except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Independence Day or Christmas or New Year's when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are six of these: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas. My column for The Advocate will run on Easter Sunday.

With Sunday, Dec. 25 being Christmas Day, I invite you to explore this link.


Slidell ordinance promises to shape free speech law

The actions of Slidell may end up shaping First Amendment jurisprudence, as result of an ordinance it enacted requiring licensing for panhandling.

Interpretation regarding this area of law went topsy-turvy last year in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert, which did not even involve panhandling. But the constitutional standard made in that case, dealing with signage, quickly became applied to a host of municipal ordinances that had prohibited various permutations of panhandling. In essence, almost all instances of panhandling acquired automatic non-neutrality in speech content, meaning that almost all regulation of it unjustifiably restricted freedom of speech.

A wide swath of challenged laws, often by a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, fell as a result. In response, Slidell abandoned its own ordinances restricting the prevalence and venue of the practice and instead turned to licensing, an approach that then had no challenge in the few places with something similar. The ordinance requires that 48 hours prior to commencing of begging that prospective solicitors obtain a free annual license that aims to provide some kind of positive identification of the holder. Information gathered for that purpose the city may use to conduct background checks.


TOPS gap makes govt, students more responsible

While current students receiving Taylor Opportunity Program for Students award got a curveball thrown at them this year, in the long run future students and taxpayers will benefit from the state’s failure to fund the program fully.

The decision by policy-makers to cover only about 93 percent of tuition due for this year and only around 41 percent for the remainder of the academic year caused consternation, but many of the state’s senior institutions found ways to mitigate costs for some or all of their award recipients. In some cases, this meant dipping into university monies or receiving one-time gifts from benefactors that clearly serve only as stopgap measures.

However, it’s on the student end of things where the shortfall can assist both them and the citizenry as well as make the program run more efficiently. Technically, applicants must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as part of the process, where any no-cost aid a student receives from the federal government offsets TOPS dollars.


Candidates of varying appeal test treasurer waters

With state Treas. John Kennedy ascending to the U.S. Senate at the start of next month, the job he has held for 17 years comes open. Since now it has catapulted upwards its last two occupants who won reelection to it, ambitious politicians reasonably view it as a stepping stone to higher office, attracting a number who have voiced consideration for the job.

But as a state whose population votes center-right ideologically, the electorate would prefer certain candidates over others. Even though the job itself provides little room for policy-making, featuring largely technocratic and arcane functions to most voters, because it can act as a launching pad to higher, more issue-driven positions, candidates who stake out issue preferences on fiscal matters appealing to conservatives have every incentive to publicize these and force the election to play out in this territory.

This makes certain candidates more acceptable than others: those who have conservative fiscal ideas and can demonstrate at least minor expertise in the area of the treasurer’s job functions (not that Kennedy had a lot of this background before his election, and prior to the guy he beat former Sen. Mary Landrieu held the job, who had zero qualifications on this account). Thus, listed below in order of acceptability to conservatives are major figures not fairly unlikely to run.


Edwards unable to afford hyper-politicized agency

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards threw overboard outgoing Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Charlie Melancon because the latter’s use as a political instrument became too costly to the former’s political future.

Last week, Edwards announced the departure of Melancon after less than a year on the job. Melancon latter clarified, saying he had been dismissed but would stay on the job until completion of an audit of past agency practices.

Melancon’s stormy tenure included shilling for national Democrat interests in fisheries policy against the will of all other Gulf states and congressional majorities, aligning himself with commercial fishing interests against recreational users, firing an apparent whistleblower that came forward concerning unseemly management practices that earned him a law suit, and feuding with the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, the other part of the duopoly that runs the department. The audit also had overtones of politicization, perhaps as a method to subjugate the agency and Commission that clearly have resisted Edwards’ influence in the department.


After ruling, Edwards must avoid acting irresponsibly

Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards loves to implore state policy-makers to work together. Now he has a chance to put his money where his mouth is.

Yesterday, state District Court Judge Todd Hernandez handed Edwards a setback in a case involving his executive order JBE 16-11, which sets out parameters for employment and contracting provisions engaged in by the state. It sets up a number of protected classes that largely mirror federal and state law, except that it adds in classes of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” – terms nowhere defined by any law.

This prompted Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry to sue Edwards to prevent application of the order in its entirety. Landry’s special concern came in contracting, as the attorney general must sign off on state contracts for these to become valid – a power Edwards already had challenged unsuccessfully in a different court. Because contracts emanating from the Division of Administration contained the phrasing reflecting the order, Landry refused to approve of these (including one that would shift funds to his office), as well as those from other agencies, due to his interpretation that a governor could not expand unilaterally these classes, in effect creating law. For the same reason, the House Appropriations Committee refused to approve of contracts it needed to vet.


Edwards resists maneuver to right-size LA govt

Just as Louisiana’s House Republican leadership seems bound to cut the size of government, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards seems determined to keep it inflated with assistance from media allies.

At yesterday’s meeting of the Revenue Estimating Conference, told that in addition to an already hypothesized $313 million deficit that as much as $464 million could develop on top of that, the panel deferred 2-2 to make an official adjustment to the forecast. Edwards’ right-hand man Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and Edwards’ ally Republican Sen. Pres. John Alario voted to make the recognition, but GOP House Speaker Taylor Barras and economist Jim Richardson deferred.

Barras said he wanted to take another month to see whether revenues, which continue to underperform predictions, would snap back. Richardson said he felt on the fence between officially starting the deficit reconciliation process and hoping for more revenue but Barras’ position he found reasonable enough to tip the balance in favor of no declaration. In any event, even one vote against would block making revised projections, as only unanimity can change a forecast.


Campbell blowout loss brings doubt to his PSC future

Last weekend’s elections produced a big and unexpected surprise in north Louisiana in a cycle that should not have produced anything unusual, perhaps foretelling the future.

As expected, Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson crushed Democrat lawyer Marshall Johnson in racking up nearly two-thirds of the vote. History tells us that Johnson can stay as long as he likes, as no incumbent has lost reelection to this Shreveport-based district since former Gov. Buddy Roemer upended former one-term Rep. Buddy Leach in 1980, which broke a six-decade stretch of successful incumbent reelections. Johnson’s rock-ribbed conservatism combined with superior analytical and rhetorical skills honed by a legal career featuring his argumentation in front of the U.S. Supreme Court will make him, absent enormous change in district attitudes, hard to dislodge.

It also came as no surprise that the area’s Democrat Public Serviced Commissioner Foster Campbell lost to Republican Treasurer John Kennedy for the open U.S. Senate seat. But the margin of his defeat and how it happened does raise some eyebrows.


GOP voters punish Angelle, cap his political career

Payback time came for Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, with a gift that keeps on giving for Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Last year, Edwards won the governorship in part because of the gusto at which Angelle joined him in attacking GOP Sen. David Vitter. Angelle hoped that by tearing down Vitter he could join Edwards in the runoff, where dynamics suggested he could defeat him. Instead, he fell short, then refused to endorse Vitter in the runoff.

One could make a strategic case for Angelle’s deferral: so badly tarnished had the tag-team disparagement of Vitter made the senator that associating with him potentially could have damaged Angelle for his future political endeavors – the next step to which became clear shortly thereafter when he announced a run for the Third Congressional District. Yet at the same time that carried great risk, for refusal to back Vitter even as it appeared his ship would sink to Republicans made Angelle seem like a disloyal opportunist, willing to stab in the back the party’s best hope to win in order to advance his own political ambitions.


LA legislators seeing through expansion snow job?

The Medicaid expansion con job perpetrated on Louisiana by the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration continues to unravel, as confirmed in yesterday’s preliminary budget hearings by the House Appropriations Committee.

The Department of Health’s request for $14.6 billion for fiscal year would, in terms of operating expenses, vacuum up half of the state’s spending. From the beginning of former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s terms, this more than doubles that amount of a decade ago (including charity hospital costs), both in overall spending and in the amount of general fund dollars expended.

But LDH Secretary Rebekah Gee insisted Medicaid expansion had nothing to do with escalating state costs, saying almost all new spending would come from federal dollars. Further, she alleged that expansion had saved money this fiscal year – the oft-stated number being $184 million – and according to this budget would cause a reduction of $41 million in general fund spending over last year.


Trump picks portend good things for Louisiana

The news just keeps getting better for Louisianans regarding the shape of the incoming Pres.-elect Donald Trump Administration, with the selection of Dr. Ben Carson as Sec.-designate of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Before that pick, dating prior to the Republican’s election last month, Louisiana experienced a steady stream of good news regarding the assumed direction of national public policy under a Trump Administration. Tapping significant anthropogenic climate change realist Myron Ebell to direct incoming environmental policy and personnel meant a step back away from the punitive, ideologically-driven Environment Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases, challenged in court by Louisiana, and in approving of pipelines that would bring substantial energy resources to the state for processing and export. It also means putting a lid on alarmism by the federal government on the hydraulic fracturing process of extracting energy, which plagued efforts in some parts of the state.

Naming Republican Rep. Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services will help Louisiana pull back from the after-effects of ruinous Medicaid expansion. If that survives at all, it likely would come in a form of vouchers backed by block grants that allow states to shape their coverage parameters and responsibility, perhaps along the lines of the plan initially offered by incoming Vice Pres. and current Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence rejected by the federal government.


Out-of-touch Campbell Senate candidacy sinking fast

As it suffers its death throes, the campaign of Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell has turned increasingly bizarre, lurching into an Orwellian mode entirely tone deaf about why he will lose this election in uncompromising fashion.

With polls showing a healthy lead for fellow runoff contestant Republican Treasurer John Kennedy and early voting trends not on Campbell’s side, he and his allied political action committee Defend Louisiana have banked everything on hopelessly desperate and tellingly self-unaware advertisements and statements. These appear desperate because they spin fantastic assertions that strain credulity and lack awareness because they bring up Campbell’s own vulnerabilities as a candidate.

For example, even though Kennedy has publicly voiced pro-life attitudes since 2004 and has the endorsement of the leading pro-life group National Right to Life, the PAC ran ads claiming Kennedy harbored pro-abortion sentiments more than a dozen years ago. That Defend Louisiana would employ a tactic attacking Kennedy on inconsistency on this issue seems ironic given that the organization initially formed to back Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards last year, who himself evinced pro-abortion sentiments in a contemplated 2006 run for Congress and in 2009 as a legislator supported weakening a pro-life conscience protection bill yet now claims staunch pro-life views.


Conflict coming between Edwards' approval, agenda

Something’s going to have to give, and likely that means public approval of Democrat John Bel Edwards will fall unless he changes his agenda.

In a recent poll, Edwards checked in with about five-eighths of registered voters approving of his job performance, versus a third who disapproved. His rating came in a bit overstated, however, as the sample contained 49 percent Democrats compared to just 44 percent statewide, and that a significant gap appeared in judging him favorably between Democrats much more friendly to him and Republicans. Also worth considering: Democrats tend to turn out to vote in disproportionately fewer numbers than Republicans, by a small margin.

Still, it’s better than being barely above water as he was months ago, when then well under half approved. But going forward his agenda the public soundly rejects, creating a major problem for his elective career.


Legislative leaders too comfortable with road tax hike

If it already isn’t, for conservatives it should be pretty close to last straw time for Republican state Rep. Kenny Havard, with perhaps some disgust left over for Louisiana’s GOP legislative leadership on the issue of transportation policy.

Although he burst into the consciousness of many with his ill-timed sense of stripper-based humor during the past session of the Legislature, Havard during his career on numerous occasions championed big government inimical to conservatism: sponsoring legislation that essentially would halt privatization efforts, supporting Medicaid expansion, and voting to keep letting unions use taxpayers as their bill collectors.

Still, he managed to wangle a prestigious committee chairmanship, Transportation, Highways, and Public Works, by playing both sides of the street. He publicly endorsed Democrat liberal then-colleague, now-Gov. John Bel Edwards last year to take the state’s top job, but cannily refused to back Edwards’ choice for House Speaker Democrat state Rep. Walt Leger in favor of staying loyal to his party that led to the installment of Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras.


Campbell's strange debate strategy unlikely to pay off

There’s no mystery as to why Republican frontrunner for Louisiana’s Senate seat Treasurer John Kennedy may not enthusiastically wish to participate in a debate with his Democrat runoff counterpart Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell. More curious is why Campbell seems not to want the joint appearance to come off as well.

With polling giving Kennedy a commanding lead in the Dec. 10 runoff election, he can fall back on the tried and true tactic of running out the clock. When in the situation that dynamics favor you and the only way to lose is to make some tremendous mistake, you limit your chances to make these, while not looking like you completely want to ignore campaign events.

By contrast, someone as deeply down as Campbell would want to emulate Democrat former Sen. Mary Landrieu, who as soon as she found out she fell well short of winning without a runoff against Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy in 2014, even though she led him narrowly in the general election she immediately asked for an absurd six debates in the month prior to the runoff. Cassidy laughed that off and they had one a few days prior to the final election where he blew her out.


Disgust at Shreveport garbage fee should go further

Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler will have to reassess old spending priorities to shore up a leaky 2017 city budget buffeted by property tax and garbage fee subtractions.

During quadrennial periods coinciding with presidential election years, Louisiana assessors perform a mandatory reassessment on all property in their parishes, reflected in that year’s billing. In Caddo, as with some other parishes in the wake of flooding during the year and a general economic slowdown in the oil patch, its assessor Charles Henington reduced marginally property values parishwide.

In typical years where assessments rise – either because of the reassessment or because property sales occur at values higher than the property’s previously-assessed values – governing authorities on their own may roll forward millages in order to capture more tax revenue. Even if they do nothing, rates automatically roll back to produce a constant stream of dollars. But in a situation where property tax proceeds actually will go down because of changed assessments, they cannot do anything unilaterally to prevent that.


Back to the future appointment reminds of regression

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards made the old new with a recent appointment, continuing to demonstrate the retrogression his administration brings to Louisiana.

In agencies part of the Division of Administration, leaders serve at the pleasure of the governor, so with Edwards’ assuming the job at the beginning of the year, one by one heads selected by Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal, unless told not to by the incoming regime, stepped aside. For his pick to helm the Office of Group Benefits, which oversees employment benefits of state employees save for retirement matters, he chose former OGB Chief Executive Officer Tommy Teague.

Previously appointed by Democrat former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Jindal assented to him continuing in the job until he began to buck the Jindal Administration on streamlining the agency and reining in excess balances held back from ratepayers. Officials wanted to privatize most functions as had almost every state and to institute a more realistic reserve level; at around half a billion dollars, this was at least twice as high as industry norms, a trend Teague had tried to feed by asking for rate increases annually that DOA usually pared down considerably.


Thanksgiving Day, 2016

This column publishes usually every Sunday through Thursday around  noon (sometimes even before; maybe even after sundown on busy days) U.S. Central Time except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Independence Day or Christmas or New Year's when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are six of these: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas. My column for The Advocate will run on Easter Sunday.

With Thursday, Nov. 24 being Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to explore this link.


Delay appropriate to resolve constitutional question

A Louisiana House panel last week wisely held off on approving health insurance provider contracts, but the prudential value of this action will decay rapidly.

The House Appropriations Committee refused to act upon approval of these, which relate to the state providing health insurance to its employees beginning Jan. 1, because of legally-questionable language. The documents incorporate phrasing from Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive order JBE 16-11, that states “contracts for purchases of services … shall include a provision that the contractor shall not discriminate on the basis of … sexual orientation, gender identity….”

The authority a governor has to create protected classes of individuals undefined by law, as are sexual orientation and gender identity, runs counter to opinion #16-0078 issued by Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry. He has taken the matter has to court to resolve the ambiguity, with the case’s next hearing scheduled for Nov. 29.


LA public asks for smarter, not bigger, state govt

Efforts at tax simplification and whittling away roads needs in Louisiana won’t necessarily dissipate if policy-makers won’t use these as excuses to raise taxes.

About the time the state’s Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy released its report to accomplish its mission, voters turned away a constitutional amendment that would have implemented a matter related to the panel’s final report: removing the constitutional protection of corporations to deduct federal taxes paid for their state tax liability. Companion legislation would have removed the deduction and refigured marginal corporate tax rates from several brackets topping out at 8 percent to a flat rate of 6.5 percent.

That attempt echoed the report’s suggestion that the same happen to the constitutional protection mandating individual deductibility along the same lines. If the electorate felt uneasy about the corporate version, that could make the same in the case of individuals dead in the water, a notion floated by the House Republican leadership.


Outsider perception guiding LA contests for Congress

As expected, of the three contests left for federal elective office in the 2016 cycle in Louisiana (and the nation), the one featuring an intra-party battle looks the most interesting, if polling data prove correct. Yet all three ratify the notion that 2016 is the year of anti-establishmentarian politics.

After most survey outfits missed the call in the presidential contest (and quite a few other statewide races across the country), one might question legitimately the accuracy of surveys of Louisiana’s Third and Fourth Congressional District runoffs as well as that for the Senate. But not only do these align with conventional wisdom, they also came from one of the few pollsters to pick accurately the electoral college win of Pres.-elect Donald Trump. (Note: I was one of the respondents for two of these, and judging from the demographics the sampling seems right.) And these bring bad news for Democrats.

For the Senate, Republican Treasurer John Kennedy holds a 58-35 percent lead over Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (numbers throughout include both definite and leaning vote intentions). Campbell’s only lead occurs in CD 2, with its 63 percent black registration and, somewhat humiliating, trailed Kennedy by 21 points in his home CD 4. It’s hard to win statewide when picking up just over 20 percent of the white vote and barely half of your own partisans, while Kennedy picked up five out of every six Republicans and a majority of other/no party voters.


LA higher education heads misintepret election results

Louisiana higher education leaders they may be, but they drew the wrong lessons from election night results.

Disappointingly, Amendment 2 went down to defeat at the hands of voters last week. This would have transferred tuition authority from a supermajority of the Legislature to university management boards. This makes tuition changes fairly inflexible in a marketplace demanding more and more adroitness in pricing decisions.

While difficult to ascribe motivations for voting behavior on this issue, perhaps the majority felt the Legislature would look less kindly on hiking tuition than the appointees it vets for the boards. Currently, the GRAD Act has delegated in a limited fashion the Legislature’s authority for this by allowing schools to increase tuition up to 10 percent annually until reaching the southern regional average, under contracts that will expire soon. Successful negotiations for new six-year contracts could continue this power exercised by the three boards.


LA CD 3 runoff has barnburner makings

In a year presumed for outsiders, the ultimate insider may win Louisiana’s Third Congressional District because of the votes of those typically least connected to the political process – if they turn out.

Last week, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle led the field in this contest. The former Democrat/now Republican not only has served in cabinet posts under two governors, but also led a parish and sits on the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors. Few in the state can match the breadth and length of his political career.

Yet he outpaced a raw amateur by just three percentage points, as law enforcement officer Republican Clay Higgins racked up 26 percent of the vote, way ahead of the third-place candidate, a white Democrat who ran a fairly unserious campaign that benefitted as a default for Democrat voters at nine percent. Right behind him came a black Democrat, followed by three Republicans who shelled out big bucks only for each to score in single digits.


LA GOP ready to stamp its authority on Senate, CD 4

As a result of last week’s elections, northwest Louisianans have two opportunities to nullify the playbook authored by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards for his party to win the biggest elections in the state.

Edwards famously captured the governorship last year when he tactically navigated, by emphasizing the few areas of agreement he had with voters while downplaying the many he did not, through a field of Republicans too busy savaging each other to expose him on those issues. This sent a gravely wounded Republican through to the runoff phase with him, where Edwards triumphed.

This year, only two general federal election contests resulted in a Democrat making the runoff. For Senate, northwest Louisiana’s Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell with 17 percent of the vote squeaked into a runoff with Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, who pulled in 25 percent. For House District 4, area lawyer and the lone Democrat Marshall Jones with 28 percent edged out Bossier City Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson by three points.


Mendacious letter distracts from expansion problems

When you can’t refute the argument, avoid addressing the argument – a time-honored strategy Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee employed in a letter to the editor addressing my recent Baton Rouge Advocate column that mentioned Medicaid expansion. Better, she not only dodged it, she added in some misdirection and misinformation on top of that.

That column really focused more on the “surprise” the Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration experienced when a budget deficit for this fiscal year appeared in its calculations, which to anyone conversant in economics would have expected: you raise taxes the equivalent of nearly 20 percent of general fund revenues and the resulting depression of economic activity will cause revenues to undershoot projections, especially as the Legislative Fiscal Office used a static model of revenue generation in formulating the impact of the hikes. However, the piece also mentioned the spending side, pointing out that almost the entire increase in the FY 2017 budget in state general fund dollars – the receptacle for the tax increases – came in health care spending.

That over $500 million increase stands in stark contrast to the alleged $184 million Medicaid expansion “savings” asserted by Edwards through his implementation of it – a figure which Gee’s department never has explained its derivation despite numerous questions from this space and others about that. The only study, by the department during the former Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration prior to Edwards’ election, cast serious doubt on those numbers and projects over the next several years the state would pay billions of extra dollars (shortly after the change in administrations, the new regime removed this and a successor paper from Health’s web site).


U.S. voters catching up to LA's in voting by ideology

When it came to the 2016 presidential election, while Louisiana’s voting behavior may have typified past such elections, voters in other states joined majorities in Louisiana in that citizens nationally became more likely to vote in their own self-interests.

The political left will try to spin an interpretation of the election that whites, particularly men, achieved some kind of political consciousness based upon antipathy towards others not of their race and to larger cultural changes allegedly “inclusive.” This rallied them to turn out in large, unified numbers to allow Republican Pres.-elect Donald Trump to defeat Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton. The only problem with this view is that the data support a completely different, far less dramatic and less pejorative reality where issues matter more than image.

For the leftist thesis to hold, the count would have to end with increased Trump support over the total for 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney, who faced criticism for tepid turnout of expected voters and that exit poll data would show that whites would offer him significantly more support than Romney received in 2012. In fact, neither happened. When all the votes come in, Trump likely will receive fewer than did Romney, and he only improved one point in the proportion of white voters he pulled.