Mid-week Louisiana politics: Not much has changed since the last time…Louisiana Governor Jindal continues to mount frequent flyer mileage; Senator David Vitter continues to raise his profile in the state by taking on President Obama and fellow Louisiana U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and this time by publically backing Mitt Romney for U.S. President; Louisiana’s conservative political blog, The Hayride’s, publisher Scott McKay continues show he is not “chicken” by using Facebook to stoke his follower’s passions; Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO) continues to feel the budgetary pains due to government cutbacks; and political commentator John Maginnis continues to see the fine lines within the cracks of Louisiana politics and government as he opines over the recent surprising developments of the Shaw Group and its President, former Louisiana Democratic Party Chairman, Jim Bernhardt.
So, let the Louisiana politics continue…
David Vitter's recent email to his "team"
Last week, the U.S. Senate voted on President Obama's tax increase proposal. That one vote tells Louisianians an enormous amount about what’s at stake in this fall's election. It illustrates two dramatically different visions for our future—two starkly different approaches to small businesses, job creators, and economic recovery.
All Republicans and two Democrats voted against Obama's tax increase proposal. In doing so, they clearly stated that we shouldn't raise taxes on small businesses, particularly in this horrible economy
In the same vote, 51 Democrats including Mary Landrieu voted to raise hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes on small businesses—not only because 75 percent of all small businesses pay taxes through the individual rates, but because the death tax on family businesses would increase dramatically under their bill.
With the Senate vote last week, Mary Landrieu and Barack Obama stated clearly that dramatically raising that death tax on family businesses is just fine, even though it will cause the break-up of many successful Louisiana small businesses upon a parent's death. I guess that's because, as Obama stated recently, "If you have a small business, you didn't build that."
With this vote, Mary and Obama show no understanding of the Louisiana family farmer scraping to break even working his family land . . . or the neighborhood dry cleaner struggling to make payroll before he can take home anything for his own family. . . or the seafood processor risking everything in the wake of the hurricanes just to stay afloat and keep his core employees working.
That death tax increase they supported would devastate those Louisiana small businesses. That Louisiana farmer, the dry cleaner, and the seafood processor aren't Wall Street billionaires. They're the WORKING, productive engine of our economy.
One vote, two dramatically different visions for our future.
Elections have consequences. This presidential election couldn’t be more important in deciding what vision and future we want for America.
Common sense conservatives like Mitt Romney and me want Louisianians working and innovating again. And we want Washington encouraging their success, not demonizing or redistributing it.
Please join us . . . before it's too late.
On the road with Bobby
The Associated Press is reporting that Gov. Bobby Jindal is “scheduled Wednesday evening to be part of a speaker series with GOP governors hosted by The Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank headed by Walter Isaacson, a Louisiana native.
Among the other governors included are Chris Christie of New Jersey, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
Jindal's office said the governor was in Colorado from Tuesday through Thursday for Republican Governor's Association meetings.
On Friday, Jindal's heading to Washington, D.C., for additional RGA events. On Saturday, he is traveling to Jacksonville, Fla., to be the keynote speaker at the Red State Gathering, a prominent GOP event.”
Maginnis on Bernhard--what's next?
Right after the question of the future of the Shaw Group in Louisiana is what's next for its retiring chairman and CEO Jim Bernhard. Louisiana politics, perhaps, according to one source who says the Democrat might jump into the Public Service Commission election this fall. From there, several political sources agree, the logical step would be to run for governor in 2015. Bernhard did not return a phone call for comment.
Should Bernhard take that path, he would be the dream candidate for state Democrats, now on the brink of electoral despair. The open PSC seat would be a natural fit, with his record of building a pipe fabrication company into an energy and construction engineering giant. As a potential candidate for governor in 2015, he would offer unquestioned job creation credentials.
Bernhard is not exactly idle. Still Shaw chairman and CEO, he has to guide the public company through the completion of the acquisition by Dutch firm CB&I in January. After that, though, he will retire, according to this week's announcement. Estimates of his payoff start at $55 million.
Has Played Both Sides in Politics
Qualifying opens in just 15 days for the District 2 seat being vacated by Republican Jimmy Field of Baton Rouge. Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, and former Lafayette Parish Councilman Ed Roy, also Republican, are campaigning. Yet to commit to the race is Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle, whose indecision is creating impatience among potential backers.
The Baton Rouge resident has long shown a keen interest in public service and politics. As late as 2010, he strongly considered running for the U.S. Senate against Sen. David Vitter, before stepping aside for former Congressman Charlie Melancon. The obstacle then, according to knowledgeable sources, was his position at the helm of Shaw, which he could not reconcile with public office.
Before then, he was a key supporter of Kathleen Blanco when she was elected governor in 2003 and then helped set up the new administration as co-chair of her transition committee. Yet he has maintained Republican connections. Shortly after he became state chairman of the Democratic Party in December 2004, he contributed $100,000 to the second inauguration of President George W. Bush.
The Shaw tenure comes not without baggage. Questions arose about the $100 million in no-bid contracts with FEMA after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Recently, bad news hit close to home when his son James "Tres" Bernhard gave up his law license in May after he was sued by his law firm Crawford Lewis for alleged fraudulent dealings in state movie tax credits. The lawsuit was eventually dropped last month following a $2.2 million settlement, according to published reports.
After losing millions of dollars in state financial support this year, Southern University at New Orleans has responded with measures to not only balance its budget but to attempt to minimize the impact on student services and the overall educational mission of the University.
“The impact we are taking from these cuts has been tremendous”, said Chancellor Victor Ukpolo. “Not only in the terms of the 2012-2013 fiscal year but with the additional reductions we were forced to make by the end of the 2011-2012 year as well. I have asked my staff to do whatever it takes so that we are able to provide students with the education resources that they need, but this has also forced us to really examine how we do business and look for greater efficiency.”
For the upcoming fiscal year, SUNO will attempt to remove more than $2.6 million dollars in costs from its budget. The largest portion will come from 17 faculty and staff vacancies that will go unfilled, saving the university $838,337. An additional $716,146 is expected to be saved after the retirement of 3 employees and layoffs of 7 other staff members. No tenured or tenure track faculty members are impacted at this time. SUNO has also put in place an energy conservation plan to lower costs along with a reduction in operational and maintenance expenditures to save more than half a million dollars. The remainders of the reductions are a product of budget transfers within the university.
Chancellor Ukpolo continued, “We will continue to make evaluations going forward to see where we can reduce expenses as well as aggressively pursue ways to increase our revenues. Unfortunately after years of budget cuts, we are now faced with some very difficult decisions. I am confident that SUNO will not only survive this difficult period, but rebound stronger than ever.”
Is it Chicken Yet? A Facebook post today by conservative blogger, Scott McKay, publisher of The Hayride