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Spendthriftiness costs LA on jobless fund

Not only must Louisiana solve for its now-growing unemployment benefit trust fund deficit, it must do it in the right way to prevent fiscal affront to taxpayers.

This week, Louisiana started borrowing for that from the federal government. A temporary federal law allows that to continue interest-free past Sep. 30 through the end of the year. In effect, that means the no-cost borrowing can continue through Sep. 30, 2021 as long as no borrowing then occurs until the end of 2021; if not, all of 2021 debt gets levied. On Jan. 1, 2021, it must pay interest at the long-term Treasury bond rate for any 2020 balance, an amount due which may be adjusted daily, up to November 2022, when additionally a penalty increasing the federal employer rate kicks in, which can keep increasing the longer more debt remains. Moreover, charged interest payments can’t come from the fund itself, but from an external source only; in Louisiana, a “solvency tax” triggers to pay off interest whenever the fund is forecast to fall below $100 million, applied from six to nine months later for at least three months.

As of now, the state forecasts – unofficially – a deficit of $236 million by year’s end. In other words, taxpayers will take a hit unless the debt is zero by year’s end, which seems unlikely.


Shoe on other foot for blindsided BC Council

Maybe Bossier City councilors will have a better idea what they put city residents through after their rare rejection of an agenda item.

For the uninitiated, the plenary body of America’s Biggest Small Town has a long history of dispensing with its business in rapid-fire fashion, acting as if its members’ park their cars at meters which only accept up to an hour’s worth of coinage. Except for the occasional blindsided vendor or tearful appellant to an animal control order voicing complaints at times when the public is allowed to speak, or on some matters that feature almost always brief prefatory information conveyed by a member of the Republican mayor Lo Walker administration, little slows the bullet train of business serenaded by the background drone of “moved, seconded, vote, motion passes.”

Thusly, this week the Council took just a couple of minutes to all-but dispose of the city’s $60 million 2021 budget, in all its forms, in unanimous fashion. This exercise featured no debate or public comment, and councilors even found the effort to avoid a rubber-stamp quality to it all too much, as after approving the general fund budget they slammed the other 18 items together into one for consideration. They spent half that time joking about a loud computer update notification.


More hits than misses with LA amendments

Fall in Louisiana brings the heart of the football season, start of the deer season, and constitutional amendments. Lawmakers saddled voters with seven of these over three different sessions, and threw in a bonus local option vote. Let’s see what to do with these.

Amendment #1 – rejects constitutional right to an abortion. Unmentioned in the Constitution presently, this would disallow any judicial decisions by state courts from ever interpreting the Constitution in favor of its allowance in some form, although federal constitutional jurisprudence would have to change for this to come into effect. It’s a great safety valve to have to protect innocent lives. YES

Amendment #2 – taxes oil and gas wells on production value. The Constitution doesn’t allow for this, thereby forcing assessors to use less accurate methods and complicates accounting for well royalty owners. This makes life easier for all, promotes a more efficient marketplace, and clarifies the impact of policy decisions regarding taxation of these wells. YES


GOP legislators defy Edwards, their leaders

After the Louisiana Legislature roughed up Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards earlier this year, it’s not news that the Republican-led chambers would continue to operate outside of the norm of gubernatorial dominance. In this second special session of the year, the precedent-breaking news is how the GOP majority has defied its own leaders.

For the second time this year, the body called itself into an additional session, and not for the reasons Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and GOP Senate Pres. Page Cortez likely wanted. Earlier this year, many legislators thought the operating budget would run a deficit after the lengthy and relatively severe restrictions Edwards, who has the sole power to do this except for a one-house legislative all-or-nothing veto, had placed on the economy to battle the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. His actions caused the worst economic performance of all the states during this period. Further, both Edwards and the legislature had cooperated in enlarging Louisiana’s fiscal year 2021 budget past its standstill level despite an expected fall in state revenues.

But that downdraft hasn’t been so severe as to cause that type of intervention yet, save a realization that a fiscal year 2022 budget-buster, the deficit growing in the unemployment insurance trust fund, needs addressing. Instead, the main impetus for the session came from majority-party members carping about the overbroad, stale restrictions and wanting to clip Edwards’ wings on that. Another reason to meet again, dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Laura, also contributed, but even with that it’s questionable whether enough impetus to congregate one more time would have developed without the disgust over the needlessly harsh strictures.


Bogus reasons behind Edwards virus policy

Perhaps the reason why Louisiana has had the country’s worst economy and most troubling health indicators throughout the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic is because of the wretched scientific advice Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards receives from bureaucrats, whether he has any interest in following scientific knowledge rather than political agendas.

That became clear last week in testimony from a pair of Department of Health officials to a House of Representatives panel. This came during debate over measures that would force legislative input into renewal of gubernatorial public health emergency declarations, over which currently he has sole authority. The Republican legislative majority generally has complained that the scope and intensity of restrictions continue past any reasonable utility; Edwards has said he plans to keep these on with little modification “until a vaccine is widely available.”

Often, Edwards has hidden behind the skirts of the federal government saying his strictures follow these guidelines, except that he has taken great liberties with choosing how to apply those standards that leads to tremendous inconsistency in application that appears more grounded in politics than science. Further, his administration asserts that his orders are less restrictive than in many other states with lower rates of virus infections.