After Jindal addressed the legislature, on Monday, for his final State of the State address, I spoke, by telephone, with Louisiana Senate President, Republican Senator John Alario, about the speech and the session in general.
If anyone would know a state budget and its associated problems, it surely would be Alario.
Alario is now serving his tenth term in the Louisiana legislature. He is the only Louisiana legislator to serve as House Speaker twice and as President of the Senate.
In the words of Alario, this year’s budget is the worst he has ever seen and dealing with it will be a "monumental task".
Our conversation with the Dean of the Louisiana legislature and tax preparer (his profession), was not just numbers. In addition to budget talk, we discussed other "hot emotional" issues such as Common Core, Religious Freedom, the rather still response to Jindal’s speech and Louisiana Democratic Chairperson, Senator Karen Carter Peterson's decision to leave Jindal’s address before its completion.
Then we turned to the budget again includiing one of the issues most pressing to many legislators, gubernatorial hopefuls and statewide officials-- the interface of the session from hell with the upcoming Louisiana elections, this fall. Also, for discussion, were the duties of the legislative body to address the issues before it, and whether the budget would be fixed piece-meal with funding lasting only until governor Jindal left office.
Towards the end of the roughly fifteen minute recorded phone conference, Alario said there would likely be further cuts and revenue increases from sources such as the tobacco tax and reductions in popular business tax credits and exemptions. One of those likely to see cut activities (lights, camera action), would be the film tax credit, which has been instrumental in making Louisiana the world’s leading area for shooting films, but according to Alario should be scrutinized.
Below is a rough overview of our conversation. Also, below is the audios which we have incorporated into Youtube videos. You can click on and watch any or all of the videos.
Rough Overview of Interview
HIS IMPRESSION OF JINDAL'S SPEECH
Alario said the ongoing Louisiana budget which would go into effect July 1, 2015, is a real problem. The Senator, in describing Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s speech said that Jindal suggested he would work to help solve the problem, that the budget is the worst he has seen, and fixing it will be a monumental task. Alario welcomes Jindal’s input and help and despite Jindal’s destractions, the governor will provide necessary help.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL
Alario said he has had concerns about the bill from very beginning; If they modify it and take away some of those concerns, he will consider it; In particularly, he is concerned that with all of the events the state hosts, the legislation could jeopardize the state’s economy and could put the state into a bad light;
He is in the middle, politically, on that issue spectrum and hopes that there can be some changes to satisfy those who seriously oppose Common Core. However, he has not gotten into the details of any such legislation to determine what changes he would accept.
JINDAL BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS, CUTS, TAXES
Alario supports Jindal’s budget recommendations but not sure they have the necessary support in the legislature. Some of the tax credits will get "a haircut", he said, others might get a "crewcut"; He does agrees with Governor Jindal about not supporting tax increases but feels there would be a combination of revenue measures along with some more budget cutting to make the numbers work; The most popular revenue measure appears to be cigarette tax.
LEGISLATIVE RESPONSE TO SPEECH, KAREN CARTER PETERSON WALKS
Alario acknowledged that Jindal's speech was somewhat subdued without much applause. He said that Louisiana Democratic Party, Chairperson, Karen Carter Peterson, who left the speech during Jindal’s presentation, told him that she was upset over the religious liberty statements. He said that he is not sure if the walkout will hurt democrats this session and that the democratic party does not consult with him since he is no longer in the party (he switched a few years ago).
Alrio also said that democracy works at the end in the legislative session and that he doesn’t get upset over losing, he just comes back trying to win the next two issues.
STATEWIDE ELECTIONS APPROACHING
With statewide elections approaching, legislators are looking at that for self-survival. However, he said that legislators need to do their jobs this session.
TEMPORARY BUDGET FUNDING, CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, FILM TAX CREDIT AND OTHER CREDITS, ETC.
While there have been statements made in the media that the budget problem is so large that the state will only fund the budget through the end of Jindal’s term (mid-January 2016), he does not believe that will be the ultimate approach the legislature will take. Instead, he feels the budget will fund the entire year, as would be expected. Alario said there could be a special session once a new governor took over where the new governor and legislature could work on a more long-term fix. Regarding a constitutional amendment that would take the current burden off of higher education and healthcare and spread the budgetary burden more broadly, he said there could be some issues and that an amendment of such could turn into a battle between higher education and K-12 since roughly $3B of the budget is dedicated to the Minimum Foundation forumula and any alterations could come largely from that fund.
Instead, he believes the ultimate solution will be to look at the money the state is giving out in terms of the exemptions and deductions. Alario said the state needs to review this money drain just like a business would do. Specifically, one credit Louisiana will consider is the film tax credit. He said it has accomplished its mission which was to “kick-start” the industry, that we need to look at if there is fraud or abuse and make sure that it is not a windfall to the state’s disadvantage.
The Senate President said the most important issue this session is the budget but there might be some surprises (as usual).
BRAND NEW DISCUSSION BOARD
Login and talk about the Alario interview, the Jindal speech and the Louisiana legislative session. Do you agree with Alario? How do yo feel about Karen Carter Peterson's leaving the speech? Your impression of Jindal's speech?