Despite Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pledge to not raise taxes and no revenue-raising agendas for state House leaders, the state’s largest business lobbying group says “tax bills will be filed” during the upcoming legislative session in an attempt to balance the state’s $1.6 billion budget deficit.
“Any tax increases on the private sector are going to jeopardize the state’s recovery,” Louisiana Association of Business and Industry Finance Director John LeBlanc stressed at this year’s LABI Legislative Issues Breakfast, a Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce event held Thursday morning at The Petroleum Club.
LABI executives kept the focus on the state’s fiscal position and federal energy policy at their annual pre-session gathering, pointing out the loss of one-time federal stimulus dollars in next year’s budget and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study that could slow natural gas drilling permits at the Haynesville Shale, north Louisiana’s natural gas hot spot that has carried natural gas production levels to the highest the state has seen in more than 25 years.
LABI President Dan Juneau says a five-year EPA study on the “fracking” process to tap in to natural gas found in shales was released in 2004 and found no environmental hazards. But new reports have EPA on guard, Juneau says, and “taking a second look.”
“If EPA takes over permitting for shale drilling from the states, it will likely be bad news for Louisiana’s economy,” Juneau says.
State Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, one of seven members of the Acadiana delegation who briefly spoke at the issues breakfast, warned that the sale of state buildings, such as two state prisons up for a possible sale, is another one-time fix for a budget crunch that will only increase the state’s spending in coming years.
According to The Advocate, Jindal’s administration is looking into the sale of two prisons in Winn and Allen parishes, which could bring in an additional $66 million to fill in budget gaps. The sale, however, would not stop the state from having to fund the feeding, clothing and care of the inmates, a cost factor that has not yet been determined.
“The sale of state assets has been championed, but that’s one-time money. It’s a lie, and it’s misleading the public,” LaFleur says. “What are we going to do next year? Sell the Cajundome? Sell Chicot [State Park]?”
Notably absent from the chamber’s state legislative table was state Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, whose F grade on the first legislative score card issued by the chamber's political action committee sparked an outcry from Michot and Acadiana business leaders, many of whom say Michot’s 16 years in the Legislature have proved crucial for Lafayette’s business interests.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.