Higher fees part of budget solution
The tax bills got most of the attention, but legislators also raised at least $104 million for next year’s budget by increasing a variety of fees. As The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, legislators raised fees on car buyers, motorists seeking a copy of their driving records, florists, oyster fishermen and pawnbrokers. The fee hike also includes changes to licensing and application fees, permitting charges, rental rates, late fees and penalty fines. It was the fee on the purchase of a car that drew the most debate:
The fee hike, tucked into a bill by Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Livingston, will increase from $18.50 to $68.50 the title fee paid when a person buys a new or used car and the salvage title fee when a wrecked vehicle is deemed a total loss and either disassembled or sold. It also will bump from $15 to $65 the permit to sell that allows a towing company or repair facility to sell vehicles abandoned by their owners. The changes take effect July 1. Supporters said the increase will keep the state and other taxpayers from bankrolling the processing of those vehicle title registrations and transfers. “We are not charging the true cost of things. We’re subsidizing on the backs of other people,” said Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie. Bill opponent Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, objected to filling budget gaps “on the backs of the poor people of the state.” “We have raided funds and reserves from all these different agencies and then we come back and tax them, and we’re doing it on the backs of people and we think they’re not paying attention,” Peterson said.
Hospital privatization turns sour in Shreveport
A last-minute addition to the LSU Board of Supervisor’s meeting agenda points to the possibility of a lawsuit for breach of contract between LSU and the private foundation hand-picked by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to run LSU’s Shreveport and Monroe hospitals. The Biomedical Research Foundation says it has no knowledge of any alleged breach of contract, but plans to attend the meeting anyway to discuss other issues with a contract dispute. One again, Deslatte has the details:
The contracts, according to University Health, would have LSU doctors working at Willis-Knighton Health System clinics to provide specialty care. David Ettinger, an antitrust lawyer hired by University Health, said if LSU doctors shift much of their specialty care to Willis-Knighton, that will drive insured patients away from the state-owned facility and will boost state costs for uninsured care. “It will be very harmful to patients. It will be very harmful to the taxpayers of Louisiana,” Ettinger said. Willis-Knighton didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment. LSU officials and University Health’s managers have repeatedly clashed since Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized the hospital nearly two years ago.The Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana took control of LSU’s Shreveport and Monroe hospitals in October 2013, as part of Jindal’s push to privatize most of the university-run public hospital system. The foundation had never run a patient care facility when it got the no-bid contract.
Of course, many of these problems could be avoided if Louisiana were to take advantage of the opportunity to extend Medicaid coverage to the working poor. If most people were covered by insurance, patients could decide for themselves where to seek care, instead of the state funneling indigent-care dollars to specific hospitals through a series of sweetheart deals.
Bob Mann: Candidates lack specifics
In a little more than four months, Louisiana voters will head to the polls to start picking their next governor. And so far, voters have little idea of what kind of changes they’ll seek to the state’s tax and budget structure. As Bob Mann writes in Nola.com, three of the four major candidates have not laid out specific policy proposals on their websites – making it difficult for voters to make an informed decision. The exception? Republican David Vitter, who has a 36-page policy blueprint.
Here’s another important reason we must demand more information: Each candidate has promised a special legislative session early next year to address the state’s fiscal crisis. That means the new governor, not legislators, will decide what bills can be debated in that session. In a regular session, legislators may generally propose whatever they wish. Not so in a special session called by the governor. In that session next January or February, our new governor will unveil a specific agenda. The state Constitution says the governor shall “issue a proclamation stating the objects of the extraordinary session [and] the power to legislate shall be limited, under penalty of nullity, to the objects specifically enumerated in the proclamation.” … That’s a tremendous amount of power to invest in one person, so shouldn’t we expect – no, demand – specific agendas from these candidates now? That’s not to say I wouldn’t buy a stylish apron from Angelle’s website – but only if he printed his education plan on it.
Paul Krugman on Jeb!onomics
The New York Times’ op-ed columnist is not impressed with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign promise to boost U.S. economic growth to 4 percent, and notes that economic growth in the Sunshine State during the Bush years was largely due to the infamous housing bubble that later collapsed.
Or consider the experience of Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback pushed through radical tax cuts that were supposed to drive rapid economic growth. “We’ll see how it works. We’ll have a real live experiment,” he declared. And the results of the experiment are now in: The promised boom never arrived, big deficits did, and, despite savage cuts to schools and other public services, Kansas eventually had to raise taxes again (with the pain concentrated on lower-income residents). Why, then, all the boasting about growth? The short answer, surely, is that it’s mainly about finding ways to sell tax cuts for the wealthy. Such cuts are unpopular in and of themselves, and even more so if, like the Kansas tax cuts for businesses and the affluent, they must be paid for with higher taxes on working families and/or cuts in popular government programs.
Number of the Day
$68.50 – The new title fee on the purchase of a new or used car in Louisiana -up from $18.50 (Source: The Associated Press)