Search This Blog


Tap-dancing can't put lipstick on expansion pig

Regarding the dueling opinion pieces by female policy-makers at the opposite ends of Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion debate, more relevant to the debate is what was not written.

Last week, in the Louisiana section of The Center Square news site, Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt opined that politics rather than sound policy drove Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to expand Medicaid. She pointed out that it was rolled out hastily, that it registered at least $85 million roughly in payments to non-qualifiers, that a computer system which could have reduced that total was known to be lacking by the Edwards Administration yet expansion occurred without it, implementation of the system removed some 50,000 recipients from the system who likely cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of more inappropriately, and that as a whole gamesmanship appeared to play a role in the selection of new providers for regular and expanded Medicaid judging from the unserious reaction by administration staffers in the vetting process that led to a decision now legally challenged and threatening future provision.

In response, Edwards’s appointee to run the Department of Health, Secretary Rebekah Gee, tried to contest many of Hewitt’s points. She claimed that her department “worked hand-in-hand with the legislative auditor’s staff and the Attorney General’s Office to identify the rare cases of misuse or fraud in the program.” Also, she noted that Hewitt played an early role in the contract selection process the senator now critiqued and that “scoring of the bids was done by an independent review committee without input from politicians or political appointees.” Additionally, she defended the preparedness of the agency in the nearly six months from announcement to startup. Finally, she made a defense of Medicaid overall, including areas outside of the expanded population, and stated that expansion had resulted in “saving lives and [has] cut the state’s uninsured rate in half, while creating new jobs and economic growth in the process.”


Edwards policy, not tariffs, caused job loss

The last thing Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards wants the voting public to know is the wages of his fiscal policies that helped drive the Bayou Steel Group into bankruptcy.

Earlier this week, the company with 2016 estimated $229 million in revenues at its LaPlace facility filed notices in Louisiana and Tennessee, where it has a smaller plant, of layoffs affecting over 400 workers, some 376 of them in Louisiana. It also filed for bankruptcy protection, listing no assets and liabilities of between $50 million to $100 million and having between 5,000 and 10,000 creditors.

The firm had operated as a subsidiary of Black Diamond Capital Management since 2006, which subsequently sold it in 2008, then bought it back in 2016. Black Diamond, a privately held alternative asset management firm, specializes in high yield credit, stressed and distressed credit, restructurings and business turnarounds. Throughout its history, Bayou Steel had problems maintaining profitability, including a stint as a public company listed on the American Stock Exchange, now known as the NYSE American.


Tale of two LA corporations during elections

It’s a tale of two corporations, and has everything to do with election-year and good-old-boy politics in Louisiana.

Last week, Fibrebond Corporation, located in Minden, pulled back on a threat to decamp for east Texas. For months, its owner had complained about the neglected condition of area roads and bridges, forcing long detours for its deliveries. The owner of the firm reaching back decades in the area gave officials an Oct. 1 deadline with economic incentives dangling elsewhere to make an offer.

They did, with Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards triumphantly announcing a deal, its details forthcoming later this week. It should include a commitment to infrastructure upgrades and workforce incentives.


Still ticking UAL bomb needs addressing

It’s the time bomb Louisiana policy-makers, wishfully or otherwise, think has been defused, and thereby doesn’t receive the election-season attention that it should – and some, like Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, hope to hide their culpability in the service of an agenda to grow government.

Constitutionally, by 2029 the state must eliminate its unfunded accrued liabilities – that is, the amount actuarially required to pay off all anticipated future retirement obligations – that existed in 1988. While a few systems have done so, most haven’t including all the large ones. As of earlier this year, that accumulated debt equaled $18.2 billion, with over half in the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana that covers traditional public school employees and a handful of others.

That payoff will cost taxpayers approaching an extra $2 billion this fiscal year, but policy-makers have proclaimed if the public can just bite that bullet for the next decade, all will be well. Once paid off, the remaining manageable level of anticipated debt the systems can endure without asking for extraordinary taxpayer contributions, they assume.