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Treasurer Kennedy pushes reports and Louisiana budget numbers as they're the gospel
Written by  // Wednesday, 17 February 2016 14:33 // News//
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streamTreasurer John Kennedy is making a name for himself lately as he leads the US Senate race in recent polls.  He is the only statewide elected official and has taken full advantage of a budget mess by hitting the radio and TV circuits promoting his position that Louisiana has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

However, over the recent days, his statements are seriously being questioned as he appears to be throwing out information without knowing the consequences of his statements.

Last week, Blogger and Times Picayune Reporter Bob Mann (also professor at LSU), noted that Kennedy presenting information to the public that needs signnificant scrutiny.

Mann called a speech he gave to the Louisiana voters, a Thursday night fraud. which is explained further below.

Today, blogger Lamar White Jr., in a commentary writes that Kennedy is "accidentally destroying his own argument" because of a new target of Louisiana tax dollars.

White is referring to a study Kennedy mentioned on WWL radio on Tuesday. 

White, in first discussing the issues raised by Bob Mann in his blog about Kennedy's Thursday night speech,:

"Last week, in his statewide “Republican response” to Gov. Edwards’ televised primetime speech on the budget crisis, Kennedy claimed to have outlined 400 ways to cut spending and solve the shortfalls without increasing taxes. But critically, he didn’t reveal that his 400-point plan was based on a hodgepodge of recommendations made in reports that have been mothballed since 1995, 2001, and 2010, back when Louisiana operated with surpluses and well before the impact of the Jindal administration’s policies hit the state’s balance sheets. No doubt, it was embarrassing for Kennedy when the Governor himself, in an address to the entire state legislature, singled out politicians who rely on “studies that are 15 and 20 years old” and elected officials who care more about running for their next job than in doing the one they were hired to do. But, in my opinion at least, it was righteous truth-telling."         

 

Today, Kennedy recently defended his letter by saying that the bible is old too.

"This is a report from the legislative auditor. It says last year, the legislative auditor did 36 audits of state agencies and found $1.7 billion in waste. The reports are about six years old," Kennedy said. "I did send him one from back in 1995, done by the secure commission, because the issues they were struggling with then, we're struggling with now, because nobody did anything. You know, the Bible's old too, doesn't mean it's not true."

Actually, Kennedy sent another report from 2001 and a third from about five years ago and feels the governor and his staff must not have anything else to do but to cull through those old biblical reports to see the light of recommendations the Treasurer feels are so worthy.

And, who cares if the reports and ideas are old.  Like the Bible, accordinng to Kennedy, it's the gospel.

Regardless, so far, there has not been any response by Kennedy to the questions raised by White, on Cenlamar regarding the most recent government study on waste, fraud and abuse:

         

Tuesday, Treasurer Kennedy doubled-down on his “spending problem” rhetoric, and this time, perhaps having learned his lesson about old studies, he referenced a report issued just last year by the Louisiana legislative auditor. Quoting from WWL(bold mine):"

In particular, Kennedy said on the radio show, "“The legislative auditor last year did 36 audits,” Kennedy told WWL’s Garland Robinette. “The total amount of waste and inefficiencies that the legislative auditor in these 36 reports identified just last year, in 2015, is 1.745 billion dollars.“....

"But what caught my eye, in particular, was that $1.1 billion of the nearly $1.8 billion identified in the report concerned the state’s temporary exemption on taxing horizontal drilling from 2010-2014. Put another way, more than 60% of the “wasteful spending” that Treasurer Kennedy hails as the cause of our budget crisis wasn’t actually spending; it was uncollected revenue. So, when he suggests Louisiana has a spending problem and not a revenue problem, he’s apparently counting the $1.1 billion in uncollected revenue from horizontal drilling, or fracking, as “wasteful spending.”...

This begs the question: Does Treasurer Kennedy support severance taxes for horizontal drilling? It’s a pretty easy question. According to the very report he referenced, the bulk of the problem is due to an unwillingness to lift exemptions and increase and collect taxes on horizontal drilling, probably one of the largest taxes increases in state history.

If so, he will need to rework his talking point about Louisiana not having a “revenue problem. By his own admission, it’s undeniable true.

                

Kennedy, who has gain great poll popularity as he cites report after report attacking waste, fraud and abuse and claiming all can be fixed by cutting spending only.  Perhaps he is right.  Nonetheless, this just might be the reason Republicans granted him the response to Jon Bel Edwards TV address last week on the budget.  

However, Kennedy, in giving the response, might have some explaining to do, as might the State Republican Party and even the Louisiana legislature.  The Revenue Estimating Conference reported last week that Louisiana is now roughly $900 million dollars in the hole for this year and over $2 to $2.2 billion for the approaching fiscal year. 

Previously, the REC numbers indicated the state was a mere $750 million dollars in deficit this year and $1.9 billion behind for the fiscal year starting July 1.

However, in an interview on Bayoubuzz.com, in late January, Kennedy discounted the $1.9 billion and the $750 million dollar figures altogether:

 SABLUDOWSKY: I think everybody would agree with that and I believe that's one of the sources of your popularity, no question about that,  five or $6 million  is a far cry  from 1.9 billion  dollars upon the 750 million

KENNEDY: I don't think it's one point nine billion  and I don't think it's 750 million.  I think the numbers are inflated,  I think that 1.9..

I'm not saying it's not serious, but I don't think is 1.9 billion  and I don't think it's 750 million 

I think it's more like 1.2, 1.3 billion and more like 2, to 3-400 million this year if that  much. I understand politics, I understand trying to put pressure on on universities to lobby the legislature to give tax increase but I also know how to read I just don't think it's that high. That does not mean it's not serious. But I tell you this, I read a letter to the editor today here somebody commented, and I thought it was pretty significant, he said,  "this isn't a  crisis, this is a habit".  They raised taxes last spring at 800 million dollars and we told it would fix everything.  It didn't fix everything.  You cannot fix this on the revenue side, you've got to fix this on the spending side and frankly, you've got to start with Medicaid

Which raises another serious question related to Kennedy's budget claims:  Kennedy, the state's treasurer surely would know the deficit as he speaks with such authority about the budget?  But, would his opinion change about the lack of necessity to raise taxes since his budget numbers are 1/3 to perhaps 40% of the budget being used by most of state government and the legislature?

If, however,Kennedy is correct, then, perhaps Louisiana does not need to cut after all and just maybe the state is engaging in further waste and abuse for hiring economists who one would assume would be so woefully wrong with their numbers?  Also, the state surely is spending one hell of a pretty penny causing all of this panic up there in Baton Rouge debating cutting healthcare, higher education and LSU football, don't you think?

If anything, perhaps the legislature should ask Kennedy to explain his numbers since the GOP and apparently his supporters feel he has the right answers.

Meantime, I will wait for his latest opinion and the next report he wants to cite, the next time he hits the talk radio circuit. 

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