TOPS at center of budget debate
(From Louisiana Budget Project)
With next year's budget gap reduced from an initial $2 billion to $750 million with the influx of new revenue from tax increases approved during the recent special session, Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration will present an updated set of budget recommendations to the House budget committee tomorrow. The AP's Melinda Deslatte reports that the news will be "sobering" and says the governor is still hoping the Legislature will agree to another round of revenue raising.
(Photo: Mike Yenni)
Edwards said he'll seek a second special session to try to raise additional revenue after the regular session ends. But no date has been set, and it's unclear whether the governor will get support for additional tax hikes to stave off cuts. He said he'll set the date "as soon as I'm convinced that the conditions have been set for success." That means, for now, lawmakers will have to craft a budget for next year using other ways to close the gap, primarily expected to involve cuts.
While cuts are likely to affect nearly every area of state government, Jim Beam of the Lake Charles American-Press notes that the popular TOPS program may provide the governor some real leverage.
If anything can motivate legislators to raise more money, nothing compares with TOPS. Taxpayers at every income level consider it one of their most cherished government programs. Efforts to tamper with it in any way have failed many times in the past. Fortunately, Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish, R-Jennings, and Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, both chairmen of their respective education committees, are sponsoring similar legislation that is realistic and appears to have support. Both of their bills would cut everyone's scholarship across the board when there isn't sufficient funding. Morrish's bill is headed to the full Senate. Landry's measure hasn't been heard in her committee. Both lawmakers prefer their plan to taking TOPS away from students with lower ACT scores. Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, has another acceptable bill. His would force the Legislature to vote to raise TOPS funding after the 2016-17 school year. Unlike the current system, TOPS wouldn't increase automatically when tuition goes up.
YENNI'S SPEECH REGARDING WEST JEFFERSON HOSPITAL
Today, Parish President Mike Yennni issued this speech regarding the lease of West Jefferson Medical Center
As I campaigned for Parish President, it was clear to me that the lease of West Jefferson Medical Center was on the minds of many citizens. Like many citizens, I was disappointed that the public and press were not invited into the many closed door sessions on the lease of one of our greatest assets. But that … is water under the bridge.
That fact is that on September 30th of last year, the Parish of Jefferson and LCMC Health agreed to a deal of almost $600 million in lease payments, capital improvements and community outreach. Since then, much has happened.
▪ Financial reporting by hospital administrators is off by more than $18 million;
▪ The hospital overstated its earnings to the tune of $9 million;
▪ There are errors in calculating the cost of insurance obligations;
▪ There are errors in determining pension costs;
▪ And now, a well-respected analyst of hospital acquisitions has informed me and the council that surprise expenses may cost our parish as much as $28 million.
Meanwhile, some say the millions in accounting errors:
▪ ... are just a matter of course;
▪ Some say they are just minor adjustments; and
▪ Some defend the shoddy bookkeeping.
I say the mistakes, miscalculations, and missteps are unacceptable, inexcusable … and they are unsatisfactory to my way of protecting the public trust.
When a leading consultant politely warns that we have a "problem", I heed the warning.
Therefore today I am taking the appropriate action to scrutinize the negotiations and valuations that led to the lease of the parish's West Bank hospital and to ensure that Jefferson Parish receives what is properly due from the parish’s lease to LCMC Health.
I have instructed Parish Attorney Mike Power to assemble an "Examination Team" of parish attorneys, financial analysts and administrators to delve deeply into all aspects of the lease of West Jefferson Medical Center from the day legislation was passed to allow the lease to today. Only through exhaustive prying and probing will I be able to report accurately to the public what has transpired and what shall be done.
This hospital is a major parish asset. This is a critical parish service. There is no reason why any council member or administrator in this parish should be unreceptive to this course of action. This careful review is a cautionary step toward absolute truth.
No file should be shut. No door should be closed. No fact should be impermeable as we seek answers to the questions that the public deserves answered.
This decision has been long in the making. I want to especially thank Councilmembers Paul Johnston and Ben Zahn for working closely with me and my administration as they have assisted this exploration greatly through their actions.
Councilman Johnston’s motion to return Joshua Nemzoff to the review process was and is an important step in our fact-finding mission and I thank him and the council for its 7-0 vote.
Councilmen Johnston’s and Zahn’s joint motion to conduct a forensic audit is significant and will likely be revealing, and I thank him and the council for its 7-0 vote.
Let me be clear. This move to examine facts and findings is not an indictment on LCMC or any of its members. This is not a witch-hunt against West Jefferson Medical Center or any of its administrators, providers or analysts.
This is a fulfillment of my obligation to the people of Jefferson. This is the people's hospital. The people must know every detail on how this lease emanated, evolved, and ended.
The exploration of facts and information is underway. I will report findings to the media and public monthly until we complete our inquiries.
On another note, I have been asked by some: “What is being done regarding the future of East Jefferson General Hospital?” EJ is under a strong internal reformation by the board and hospital administrators. Together, they have strengthened the hospital’s financial position, and they are rediscovering their position among the top hospitals in Louisiana.
As Parish President, I will remain active in the review and repositioning of East Jefferson General Hospital.
I am reviewing everything from the hospital’s market share to its volume statistics as we make EJGH stronger in healthcare and finances.
I am considering legislation to loosen the long-running stranglehold placed on this specific hospital. Be assured, I will be a hands-on Parish President to assist our hospital’s leadership and protect this major asset.
The taxpayers and citizens of Jefferson Parish deserve nothing less.
I will now invite Councilman Zahn and Councilman Johnston to the podium.
BLOGGER GOES CONSULTANT
"There's an old saying in politics about 'knowing where the bones are buried.' Lamar knows that in Louisiana, sometimes the bones are buried and sometimes they're above ground. We need folks like him to hold our politics and our politicians accountable.”
- James Carville
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA —This week, Louisiana’s most influential blogger, Lamar White Jr. of Alexandria and Baton Rouge, founded and launched Imagine Louisiana Communications, a Louisiana-based political communications and consulting firm. White brought on Cayman Clevenger of New Orleans, who has extensive experience in Republican campaigns, to serve as his Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff. White and Clevenger will employ their experience and extensive reservoirs of knowledge of Louisiana politics to assist candidates, government agencies, municipalities, non-profit organizations, and elected officials on policy and campaign research, messaging, and public relations. "Lamar White and Cayman Clevenger are two of Louisiana's brightest political minds,” said former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards.
The company’s website is located at www.imaginelouisiana.com
Imagine Louisiana Communications’ mission carries forward the vision that White’s website, CenLamar, already created: vigorous research and poignant, insightful, and well-written analysis on relevant political issues, policies, candidates, and elected officials.
Imagine Louisiana Communications will primarily focus on serving politicians and lawmakers, offering analysis, research, fact checking, and exhaustive investigative services on issues. Imagine Louisiana Communications will also provide speech writing and editing services, debate preparation, and candidate-specific research. It will be the first political consultancy in Louisiana that exclusively focuses on research and content development. "Research is the most critical component of any campaign. If you are running for political office, leading a public affairs campaign, or just trying to learn how to be more effective on a particular issue, it starts with the building block of investigative research,” Bradley Beychok, the Louisiana-born political operative and President of Media Matters, writes. “Lamar White has shown that with dogged research skills, colorful writing, and a keen ability to sniff out nuggets of truth, you can be quite an effective operative."
“As we ramp up, we hope to bring others on board,” White said. “Already, even before our launch, we have received several resumes from qualified policy researchers and inquiries from multiple candidates and lawmakers. There seems to be a real appetite and need for this type of service. We have already hired two research interns, which will be announced later this week.”
White launched his website CenLamar over a decade ago, and since then has published over 2,000 original articles and attracted nearly 2 million visitors. Among other things, he is responsible for breaking the story about Congressman Steve Scalises’s attendance at an international white supremacist rally, which attracted widespread national attention. He has also written extensively on Louisiana’s voucher program, exposing a number of questionable schools and the program’s lack of accountability. White, along with another blogger, also revealed missing time sheets from Sen. Bill Cassidy’s work with Louisiana State University and was the first to report that a private investigator working for Sen. David Vitter had been arrested after eavesdropping on the Sheriff of Jefferson Parish.
Prominent LSU professor and Times-Picayune columnist Robert Mann, who once served as an aide to Sen. Russell Long, Sen. John Breaux, and Gov. Kathleen Blanco, praised White and the vision behind his new company. “There are few people in Louisiana who can get to the heart of a policy matter faster — and describe it with more clarity and vision — than Lamar White,” Mann said. “Lamar not only knows policy; he also has an uncanny instinct for Louisiana politics. He is one of the brightest and most creative minds in the Louisiana political world today.”
Jerry Ceppos, the Dean of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communications, agrees. “Lamar has done some of the most important recent journalism in Louisiana— without a staff or libel lawyers to back him up,” he said.
Lamar White Jr. is a Louisiana native and lifelong Democrat. He graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas, worked for five years as a top aide to Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy, and then attended Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas, Texas, returning to Louisiana shortly after graduation and settling in Baton Rouge.
Cayman Clevenger is a Louisiana native who has worked on both sides of the political spectrum. He graduated from Tulane University with Honors and graduated cum laude from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law.
Clevenger ran his first political campaign at the age of 17, and recently served as Deputy Campaign Director for Edwin Edwards for Congress. Clevenger has worked as a political consultant on numerous campaigns and is experienced in political communication, crafting policy, speech writing, messaging, optics, opposition research, scheduling, and new media.
To learn more about Imagine Louisiana Communications, please visit www.imaginelouisiana.com
DEAR JEFFREY FROM FRED
(A email sent to Bayoubuzz from attorney Fred Herman to Jeffrey Sadow regarding a recent Sadow column appearing in The Advocate.
Jeff, instead of being critic in chief, which is certainly your prerogative, why is it that you don't seem to offer solutions?
Meanwhile you quote national statistics to address local problems. Your observations of the impact of raising the minimum wage just don't add up. New Orleans , Baton Rouge and Shreveport have more minimum wage workers , for the most part , than 4.3 percent of their working populations .
You criticize the Governor , yet when the legislature refuses to come forth with sufficient budget cuts during the special session , you hem and haw at the legislation proposed and passed. Actually ,you didn't hem and haw you outright attacked the Governor. This week as the cuts that you and others seem to think are the answer to our Jindal fiscal crunch are set forth by the Governor , I am sure you will have plenty to say ....
I challenge you to offer meaningful solutions and turn a critical eye to the entire process.
Meanwhile our State Treasurer in his bid for SENATE makes pronouncement after pronouncement based upon false or erroneous data and you sit back and have not one word to say ....
As your class sizes dwindle and perhaps your campus gets shuttered we can watch and read the criticism from every locale ....we all know and have known for years that we have too many colleges ....it's a political sacred cow...C'mon Jeff recommend a real budget solution close down our bloated state college and University system. Divide the state into 4 or 5 regions with 1 major state University , perhaps one or more 2 year and tech schools and eliminate all the duplication .
Give me a chance Jeff , and me , a LAWYER from New Orleans , I can come up with a few examples.
Here's another . Do the same with Airport and Port authorities. Even eliminate them entirely .
We can go on and on Jeff but the fact is the fiscal krazies in the GOP Norquist factions will never allow their precious , Shreveport campus of LSU be swallowed by La.Tech or another state school nearby it have LShreveport swallow them .
I don't seem to recall and perhaps you might refer me to the critical pieces within Gov.Jindal's first 4 months of office or for that matter during the first four years as he dismantled the fiscal health of the state.
Just once be fair and be constructive.
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