Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A tax to save the coast? ; Retirees may sue over health plan changes; Amendments would deepen state budget woes; and Louisiana is not energy efficient

A tax to save the coast?

In case you missed it, the New York Times devoted its Sunday magazine cover story to the landmark lawsuit filed last year by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 oil and gas companies for their role in destroying the state’s coastline. Although it breaks little new ground, the article provides a helpful rundown of the efforts by Gov. Bobby Jindal and his legislative allies to kill the suit, which is aimed at raising money to pay for damages to the coast. The article highlights the work of historian John Barry, a former member of the levee board and a driving force behind the suit.


Barry believed that other oil and gas companies should also contribute. His argument was simple: Because the industry conceded responsibility for 36 percent of land loss, it should pay its part: $18 billion would be a start. The industry, unsurprisingly, preferred that the master plan be funded by taxpayers.


While it’s still unclear whether the suit can move forward, Barry has now floated another idea for coming up with the $50 billion or so that’s needed to halt coastal erosion and start rebuilding the wetlands that serve as natural protection against hurricanes. Barry, joined by conservative pundit Quin Hillyer, calls for a new tax on oil and gas. It’s an idea that dates to at least 1982, but one the authors believe would be quite affordable for the companies that have extracted $470 billion in natural resources from Louisiana over the past two decades alone.


The size of the levy could be negotiable and certainly small enough as to not deter energy companies from doing business and providing jobs in Louisiana. When [then-Gov. Dave] Treen proposed it in 1982, it would have assessed 6 cents per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas and 36 cents per barrel of oil “for the use of facilities associated with the transportation” of the fuels through the wetlands. As oil prices per barrel have more than tripled since then to more than $90 per barrel, surely the companies could afford a similar, meager levy today.


Retirees may sue over health plan changes

A group representing retired state workers moved a step closer on Monday to suing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration over changes to the state employee health plan that will result in higher out-of-pocket costs for most medical services.


A successful lawsuit for the state retirees could potentially bring to a halt some of the state government’s controversial health care plan overhaul. Louisiana could also end up having to pay people who have already spent money out of their own pockets on medical products like prescription drugs, according to lawyers sympathetic to the retirees case.


Amendments would deepen state budget woes

The Associated Press took a weekend look at a pair of proposed constitutional amendments that would make it tougher for state policymakers to make budget cuts during financial downturns. The amendments would protect Medicaid funding for large institutional health-care providers such as hospitals and nursing homes, leaving other services more vulnerable to cuts.


Critics say the amendments would protect a certain segment of health care at the expense of home-based services and hospice programs. They say public colleges would become the least-protected area of the budget and more vulnerable to cuts in financial downturns. “These amendments will serve to tie the hands of policymakers who already have a tough enough time balancing the budget,” said Jan Moller, head of the Louisiana Budget Project. “This shackles the budget.” The proposals received overwhelming support from lawmakers when they were passed last year, pushed by powerful lobbying groups. Estimates are they could affect nearly $2 billion in the Medicaid programs.


Louisiana is not energy efficient

The Pelican State may produce far more than its share of the nation’s energy. But we also waste more of it than almost anyone else, according to a new study. Louisiana is the second least energy-efficient state, says the study by WalletHub.com.


To determine the most energy-efficient states, WalletHub measured energy efficiency of 48 states based on two key dimensions: home-related energy efficiency and car-related energy efficiency. Alaska, Hawaii and the District of Columbia were excluded because of data limitations.


Number of the Day
55.7 – Percentage decline in juvenile confinements in Louisiana from 2001-2011. Nationally, the rate declined 41.3 percent over the same period. (Source: The Marshall Project)