Tuesday, 18 December 2012 19:45

Louisiana walks on fiscal cliff, Jindal flies, Morial guns, budget woes

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louisiana capitol 2While much of the focus is on fiscal cliff, guns and even sometimes Christmas, how about some local Louisiana politics?

Below are press releases or other content from the following: 

Governor JIndal's email blast about his economic development wins; The fiscal cliff and the impact upon Louisiana; former New Orleans Mayor and current President and CEO of the Urban League, Marc Morial writes about gun control; The Louisiana budget; Louisiana education;  and more..

 Jindal's economic development wins

The last couple weeks have been chock full of major economic development wins for Louisiana.  

In Central Louisiana, we announced that UPS Midstream Services Inc. is investing more than $3.9 million to construct a new full-service machine facility.  As the Jena Times reported, the new facility will create 95 direct jobs, and over 100 indirect jobs, for a total of roughly 200 new jobs in Central Louisiana. 

In Northeast Louisiana, Drax Biomass International announced that the company is building a new wood pellet facility in Bastrop and a storage-and-shipping facility in Baton Rouge.  As NBC33 reported, the two projects will combine to create 63 new direct jobs, and an estimated 143 indirect jobs, for a total of more than 200 new jobs for Louisiana. 

LocalMed, a digital healthcare startup and homegrown Louisiana company, will create 52 new jobs in Baton Rouge.  As the Baton Rouge Advocate reported, LocalMed considered investing in Texas and Florida, but ultimately chose to stay in Louisiana. 

These announcements come on the heels of perhaps some of the biggest economic development news Louisiana has ever had. As part of a plan to convert natural gas to liquid fuels, Sasol is investing up to $21 billion in Southwest Louisiana. This project will create over 7,000 direct and indirect jobs. 

As the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported, this project will be the largest single manufacturing investment in the history of Louisiana and it also represents one of the largest foreign direct investment manufacturing projects in the history of the entire country. Not only that, but Sasol's investment is a huge step forward to help the United States become more energy independent. 

Despite a tough national economy, Sasol and many other companies are making significant investments in Louisiana because of our strong business climate and world-class workforce. These wins are great news for Louisiana, but we've got more work to do, and we will not rest until all of our sons and daughters can pursue their dreams here at home.

Looming Fiscal Cliff Threatens to Push Louisiana into Recession
Experts predict 28,000 jobs could be lost, local businesses at risk

***Louisiana Fact Sheet Below Press Release***

(BATON ROUGE, LA) December 17, 2012 – With less than a month to act, the U.S. faces a real risk of going over the “fiscal cliff” – a dangerous combination of spending cuts and tax expirations scheduled to hit on January 1 unless Congress and the White House take action. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the cliff could push the country back into a recession. In Louisiana, up to 28,000 jobs would be lost if we go over the cliff, according to an analysis by George Mason University, and experts warn local economies could bear the brunt of losses. 

If lawmakers fail to avert the fiscal cliff, 18 percent of the federal money that is sent to the states will be eliminated. Those cuts will reduce funding for important local programs including education, housing, and low-income initiatives. Curtailments of federal grants will cut out 6.6 percent of all revenue Louisiana receives on an annual basis, according to the Pew Center on the States, much of which has already been allocated into the state’s future spending plans. The combination of tax hikes and nearly across-the-board federal spending cuts would have profoundly negative effects on working families, funding for K-12 and higher education, and small businesses and major employers alike.

“The longer Washington takes to avert the damaging consequences of sequestration and tax increases, the more communities across Louisiana must prepare for the worst,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and head of the Campaign to Fix the Debt. “If the arbitrary combination of ill-thought out spending cuts and tax hikes take effect, it’ll be another economic setback for small businesses and families in Louisiana. We need deficit reduction, but it must be targeted and gradual in order to protect our fragile economy recovery and the middle class families who are driving it.”

Already, uncertainty around the fiscal cliff is affecting financial markets. A national survey by the National Association for Business Economists found 87 percent of respondents believe economic uncertainty is holding back the economy. Unfortunately, gridlock in Washington is threatening to push the country over cliff as the January 1 deadline looms.

Americans have expressed a desire for lawmakers in Washington to work together on comprehensive debt reduction legislation. A Gallup poll in December found 62 percent of Americans want government leaders to work on bipartisan solutions.

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is a nonpartisan coalition with more than 315,000 members active across 17 states. Members come from a broad range of social, economic, and political backgrounds. The Campaign supports a debt reduction framework that produces greater tax revenue, cuts wasteful spending, and improves important social programs, all while aimed at putting the long-term debt on a path of gradual reduction.


What the “Fiscal Cliff” and Rising Debt Mean for Louisiana

The “fiscal cliff” – the ham-handed combination of spending cuts and tax hikes worth $600 billion in 2013 alone – will take effect at year’s end unless elected leaders in Washington take action. If we tumble off the cliff, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects our economy will contract by an annual basis of 3.9 percent in the first quarter of next year.(1) And already, businesses are postponing hiring and investment decisions, fearful that the new year will deliver customers with less disposable income.(2)

But what does going over the fiscal cliff mean to Louisiana? If we were to go over the cliff:

  • Louisiana will lose up to 28,000 jobs due to federal spending reductions.(3)
  • The vast majority of Americans will see their federal tax bills rise. Because of how their state taxes interact with the federal tax code, some Louisianans will see their state tax bills rise as well. Because Louisianans will see less after-tax money in their pockets, local businesses will suffer.(4)
  • All states depend on the federal government to fund specific programs. However, 18 percent of that funding will be eliminated due to the fiscal cliff’s “sequestration” policies. This is money that funds nutrition programs for low-income women and children, education programs, public housing and many other programs that protect the most vulnerable among us.
  • The value of the federal grants that will be curtailed by the fiscal cliff’s “sequestration” of federal funds represent 6.6 percent of all revenue Louisiana receives on an annual basis. This is money Louisiana has already allocated for spending.
  • Louisiana will face an environment of policy uncertainty, as revenues it depends on from both taxpayers and federal grant programs become harder to foresee, making long-term planning extremely difficult.

As you can see, Louisiana cannot afford to go over the fiscal cliff. But at the same time, we must begin controlling our debt; research shows that once debt reaches elevated levels, an economy can be expected to grow significantly slower each year, and would increasingly face the threat of a fiscal crisis.(5) We need our leaders in Washington to come together and craft a plan to avert the fiscal cliff and to stabilize our long-term national debt.

For more information on the Campaign to Fix the Debt please visit www.fixthedebt.org.


  1. (1)Congressional Budget Office, Baseline Economic Forecast—August 2012, 22 August 2012
    (2) Nelson Schwartz, Fearing an Impasse in Congress, Industry Cuts Spending, New York Times, 5 August 2012
    (3) George Mason University, The Economic Impact of the Budget Control Act of 2011 on DOD and non-DOD Agencies, 17 July 2012
    (4) This, and all following state-specific statistics, from Pew Center on the States, The Impact of the Fiscal Cliff on the States, 15 Nov. 2012
    (5) Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, Growth in a Time of Debt, American Economic Review, May 2010

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From Marc Morial, published in the New Orleans Agenda 

DECEMBER 17, 2012 - A movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. A shopping mall in Oregon. A political event in Tucson, Arizona. The weekend streets of big cities like Chicago. And now a first grade class in Newtown, Connecticut. When will the madness stop? When will we take "meaningful action" to end gun violence in America? These are just the latest high-profile mass shootings that have taken the lives of too many innocent victims. And when those victims are small school children and their teachers, the weight of grief is almost too much to bear.

A weight of responsibility also falls on our shoulders. Immediately after one of these mass killings, someone always says it is too soon to talk about sensible gun control measures. We must take time to grieve first. But after the flying of flags at half-staff and the tearful memorial services, we invariably go back to business as usual. I say, not this time. As a father, a former mayor and a life-long advocate of a safe and quality education for every child, I too am in mourning. But at the same time, I call on our leaders in Washington and in states across this nation, to take immediate action to protect our children and prevent the kind of senseless carnage we saw last week.

Even before this latest tragedy, for years, the National Urban League has been calling for sensible gun control. In fact, on the day after the recent presidential election, I sent a letter to President Obama and the leaders in the House of Representatives, saying in part. "The scourge of gun violence cries out for a comprehensive approach to community safety and crime reduction. This requires stronger enforcement of existing gun laws and re-enactment of the assault weapons ban . . . " We asked the President and the Congress to make this a top priority for the next four years.

Gun violence has often been associated with poor, urban neighborhoods, and it is true that urban violence is much too prevalent. But most of these mass shootings have occurred in quiet, suburban towns where crime is typically low and gun ownership is high. The point is, gun violence can happen anywhere. The one common denominator is easy access to guns. In a nation of 314 million, there are 270 million privately held firearms. It is no coincidence that America has the highest gun-related murder rate of any developed country. And it's not just criminal gun violence. There are a substantial number of gun-related suicides and accidental deaths. Just last week, a 3-year-old Oklahoma boy found a gun in a relative's home, shot himself in the head and died.

Clearly, fewer guns in America and none in the wrong hands must be part of the solution. We are pleased that on Sunday's "Meet the Press" Senator Dianne Feinstein pledged to introduce a gun control bill on the first day of the next Congress that would limit the sale, transfer and possession of assault weapons, along with high capacity magazines. She expects the President to offer his support for the law. We hope so. It's time to turn our tears into action.

Louisiana Budget

(from The Daily Dime)

The federal income-tax hike that’s expected in January when the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire will reduce Louisiana’s state tax revenue, since we are one of just three states that allow full deductibility of federal income taxes on state returns. Legislative Fiscal Office chief economist Greg Albrecht estimates the state would lose $260 million if all Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire. A more likely scenario is the $124 million loss that the state would incur if tax increases are limited to those earning more than $250,000 per year.

A Baton Rouge judge will rule today on the constitutionality of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of teacher tenure rules. The rule change makes tenure harder to achieve and ties it closer to student test scores. Several teachers unions have challenged the overhaul in court, saying the bill violates the constitution’s "single object" section – which states that bills cannot contain multiple provisions affecting more than one law.

The New York Times suggests that the gas-to-liquids technology at the heart of Sasol’s $14 billion project near Lake Charles (with $2 billion in state incentives) could be a risky bet. Skeptics say the process is only profitable when oil and gas prices are sharply out of whack. “The reason you see so few G.T.L. plants is the economics are challenged at best,” William M. Colton, Exxon Mobil’s vice president of corporate strategic planning, told reporters. “We do not see it being a relevant source of fuels over the next 20 years.”

After last week’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn., it’s worth revisiting a 2011 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that looks at what states spend on mental health. The report found that while mental health funding in Louisiana hasn’t been cut nearly as much as in other states in recent years, Louisiana had the 10th lowest per-capita funding at $71.80 – well below the national average of $122.90. Connecticut’s spending was above the national average at $197.62, but still well below the top spenders in Maine and the District of Columbia, which spent $345.97 and $388.83 per person, respectively, on mental health in 2009. 


Louisiana could collect up to $8.2 million annually through a sales tax on digital downloads, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The report notes that failing to tax digital purchases places a larger share of sales tax burden on low income households, reduces the competitiveness of small and local businesses, and causes the long-term erosion of the state’s sales tax base (as more products will be delivered over the Internet).

Louisiana Education

Today, State Superintendent of Education John White visited Morris Jeff Community School in the Recovery School District-New Orleans (RSD) to recognize schools in both the RSD and Orleans Parish School Board for their winning applications in the Department's Believe and Include grant initiative. A check in the amount of nearly $1.5 million dollars was presented to representatives of five consortiums as part of the Department's $4 million dollar grant program. The funding for the Believe and Include grant is made possible through the repurposing of existing federal funding for projects through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and returning the money to schools to spur innovation that will directly impact student achievement for students with special needs.


"If we are going to believe all children can learn, then we must also believe that students with special needs can achieve at higher levels," State Superintendent of Education John White said. "This initiative is about finding innovative ways to not only include our students with disabilities but to create better learning environments for them to achieve higher outcomes."


"We are extremely proud of our schools that have been tapped to receive the Believe and Include grant," said Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard. "We are excited that our educators have these additional funds to build upon their innovative methods that equip their students for the future."


The CAMS Consortium, which consists of partner schools Morris Jeff Community Schools, McDonogh City Park Academy, Andrew Wilson Charter School, and New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High, will receive $199,926 to help improve achievement for students with disabilities The partner schools will use blended learning programs that incorporate technology into the classroom, job-embedded professional development for staff, and regular program review by special education staff to achieve a fully inclusive environment. The results of the program at each school will be compared 4 times per year to determine which technology is most effective to increase student achievement.


"Morris Jeff Community School is very grateful to have been awarded a Believe and Include grant, along with its consortium member schools," said Patricia Perkins, Morris Jeff Community School Principal. "Working with our fellow schools in writing the grant was a rewarding and learning experience for us and we are excited to continue working together during the years to come.  For Morris Jeff specifically, the award will mean that more technology and pertinent software can be purchased for its students, and teachers can continue to be trained in the framework around how Universal Design for Learning impacts our inclusion model for all students with special needs."


The Algiers Charter School Association will receive $400,000 for its eight partner schools - Martin Behrman Charter Academy, Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy, William J. Fischer Accelerated Academy, McDonogh #32 Literacy Charter, Alice M. Harte Charter, Algiers Technology Academy, O. Perry Walker College and Career Prep High School, and Edna Karr Charter High School. The consortium plans to increase academic performance of students with disabilities and prepare them to thrive on the Common Core Standards by strengthening co-teaching in the inclusion setting; increasing access to technology and build basic skills; and embed real-world and hands-on programs inside and outside the regular school day. In addition, the use of supportive technology will be increased, and schools will provide additional time for children with disabilities to access programs.


The Choice Foundation will receive $150,000 for its three partner schools - Esperanza Charter School, Lafayette Academy, and McDonogh #42 Elementary Charter School. The Choice Foundation partner schools will provide multiple means for students to learn the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by using various evidence-based technologies that afford equal access to math instruction and assessment thus providing the students opportunities to demonstrate knowledge while retaining the rigor and high expectations of the mathematics CCSS.


FirstLine Schools will receive $300,000 for full implementation of its Technology Assisted Personalized Learning Project at its six partner schools - Arthur Ashe Charter School, John Dibert Community School, Samuel J. Green Charter School, Langston Hughes Academy, Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School, and NET Charter High School. The comprehensive personalized learning project is an innovative approach to addressing the needs of all students. The project aims to improve the achievement of students by integrating computer-assisted instruction and scheduled daily intervention classes. FirstLine believes computer-led instruction is particularly beneficial to special education and intervention students because it can adapt to teach specific skills on any level whenever the need appears and personalize the pace of learning for each student.


KIPP New Orleans Schools will receive $450,000 for its nine partner schools - KIPP Leadership Primary, KIPP Believe Primary, KIPP McDonogh 15 Primary, KIPP Central City Primary, KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy, KIPP Believe College Prep, KIPP McDonogh 15 Middle, KIPP City Central Academy, and KIPP Renaissance High School. KIPP New Orleans is working to develop a horizontally and vertically aligned special education program designed so educators can leverage knowledge and understanding of precise student needs and gauge the effectiveness of particular intervention strategies. KIPP's special Education program is based on clear-cut, measureable objectives around the strategic and timely identification of student needs, implementation of high-quality, targeted interventions and support, continual development and monitoring toward student accomplishment and growth. The hope for KIPP is that this systematic, data-driven approach identifies the best special needs lessons from each of partner school, and can be applied to each school in the network.


In addition, Supt. White took the opportunity to celebrate student achievement with the administrators, faculty and students of New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School along with 25 other New Orleans area schools for achieving the Top Gains School designation for the 2011-2012 school year. With each school receiving a reward in the amount of $8,453 per school, Supt. White presented the schools with a check in the total amount of $219,800.10 for their role in increasing student achievement. Earning the designation are 16 RSD schools (13 charter schools and 3 direct-run), nine Orleans Parish School Board schools, and one Type 2 Charter School. Top Gains school, which are schools that improved their School Performance Score by or beyond a pre-determined growth target. They reward for earning this distinction can be used for educational purposes within the school.


"We applaud our schools that have been recognized with the prestigious Top Gains school designation," said Supt. Dobard. "The RSD is honored to be recognized and appreciates the State's validation that our transformation strategies for public schools in New Orleans are working."


"The Orleans Parish School Board is proud that over 80 percent of our charter schools achieved the distinction of a Top Gains School. Their continued success is a testament to the efforts of the school leaders, teachers and staff in advancing student performance," said Stan Smith, Interim Superintendent of the Orleans Parish School Board. "We will continue our efforts to ensure every single school in the Orleans Parish School system meets this bar on an annual basis, allowing multiple choices of quality schools for parents and students."


"Sci High's designation as a Top Gains School honors the focus, hard work, and achievement of our students, staff, and families," said Claire Jecklin, Co-Principal of New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School (Sci High). "Over the last four years, Sci High has gained 40 SPS points that represent our steady gains in student EOC scores, graduation rate, and student support services. As we take one step closer to being the most successful open enrollment high school in New Orleans, we are thrilled to have these funds to increase our average ACT scores and increase student access to high level instruction."


About Believe and Include

Sixteen districts or charter organizations, representing 85 schools, will benefit from grants as part of the Department's Believe and Include initiative to develop innovative programs that help students with disabilities achieve proficiency of the more rigorous Common Core State Standards.  Believe and Include represents an effort to drive achievement by empowering district leaders, school leaders, and special education teachers to pursue innovation in special education in our state.  For a complete listing of Believe and Include recipients, please click here.ar 440 schools in the state earned the Top Gains School designation. Top Gains Schools improved their School Performance Score by or beyond a pre-determined growth target, from 2 to 10 points, and will receive $8,453 each for educational purposes within the school. For a complete listing of 2011-2012 Top Gains Schools, please click here.

Media Sources

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