Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lt. Gov. calls for scrutiny of tax breaks; Coverage refusal is hurting Louisiana; State getting fleeced on Benson Towers deal; and Editorial: Borrowing from the future is risky business

Lt. Gov. calls for scrutiny of tax breaks

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne paid a visit to the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday, where he promised to apply fresh scrutiny to Louisiana’s panoply of tax breaks, exclusions, credits and other loopholes if he’s elected governor in 2015. While it’s not unusual these days for politicians to make such promises, Dardenne said he would not insist that any savings from eliminating tax breaks or subsidies be offset by new tax cuts. That represents a significant break from Gov. Bobby Jindal, who insists that any effort to curb tax expenditures be done in a “revenue neutral” manner.

“Everything needs to be on the table,” Dardenne said, though he appeared sympathetic to maintaining the state’s generous film subsidies, which is a program he sponsored while serving in the state Senate. Dardenne also distanced himself from Jindal by reiterating his openness to accepting federal dollars for expanding Medicaid, and his support for the Common Core education standards. Read The Advocate’s coverage here, and Nola.com’s coverage here.

Coverage refusal is hurting Louisiana
Taxpayers in states like Louisiana that refuse to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income adults will pay a collective $152 billion over 10 years to cover people in other states, according to an analysis by McClatchy newspapers that’s based on data from the Urban Institute. In Louisiana, the analysis found, that translates into $15.8 billion in federal funding the state won’t receive and $5.7 billion in taxes paid between 2013-2022 to support health coverage expansions in other states and the District of Columbia.

Nola.com says Louisiana’s decision to refuse the money is “irresponsible” and “heartless.”

“The extra federal money would allow tens of thousands of uninsured families to get health coverage. These are people who earn too much money for Medicaid under the old formula but can’t afford to buy a private policy and aren’t covered at their jobs. The Kaiser Family Foundation says there are 242,150 Louisiana residents in those circumstances.”

State getting fleeced on Benson Towers deal

Louisiana is paying above-market rates to rent downtown office space from New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, according to a legislative audit released Monday. The state is paying $8.1 million a year to lease offices for the Department of Health and Hospitals, the Office of Financial Institutions and numerous other agencies in Benson Towers. That’s compared to $4.6 million to house those agencies prior to the 2009 agreement that keeps the NFL team in New Orleans through 2015. Benson had previously threatened to move the team to San Antonio or elsewhere.

State officials ludicrously described the deal as a “savings” to the state, because the above-market rents are less than the $18.5 million a year in direct payments the state was making to Benson under an earlier deal that expired.

Editorial: Borrowing from the future is risky business

The Opelousas Daily World is not happy with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to use money from the 2014-15 state budget to plug a $24 million hole in last year’s spending plan. The borrowing became necessary when dollars earmarked for higher education did not materialize as the administration had hoped.

That’s “kind of like using a credit card to make the monthly payments on another credit card. It may be necessary sometimes, but it’s a sign of financial trouble, or poor planning, at the very least.

Number of the Day

$625,000 – Annual amount that Louisiana taxpayers are spending to lease nearly 25,000 square feet of empty office space in Benson Towers. (Source: Louisiana Legislative Auditor)