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 Press Releases

Louisiana Treasury's "Refund The Tolls" Program Returns More Than $3 Million to Motorists

BATON ROUGE - State Treasurer John Kennedy announced Tuesday that the recently concluded "Refund The Tolls" Program put more than $3 million in Crescent City Connection (CCC) toll monies owed to the public back in their hands.

"We took our duty to return this money very seriously," said Treasurer Kennedy.  "When the Legislature asked us to do this, we immediately made the refund process as simple as possible for citizens and started issuing checks."

The toll refund program, which by state law ended on June 30th, returned a total of $3.1 million to 127,359 citizens.  Refunding this money was a top priority for the Unclaimed Property program, which made an aggressive public outreach effort to identify owners, including a dedicated website and two successful "awareness days" at Oakwood Center in Gretna.

"Treasurer Kennedy and his Unclaimed Property team made the toll refund program a great success," said state Rep. Patrick Connick, who helped pass the toll refund bill in 2013. "Thanks to his leadership, we were able to get this money back to the people. They stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park."

In addition to the Unclaimed Property program's outreach efforts, electronic verification was used to identify people who qualified for refunds but had not applied for them as the June 30th deadline approached.  Citizens whose information was properly matched were issued checks immediately to their last known address, increasing the amount of toll money returned.

"I'm thrilled we were able to return this much money," said Treasurer Kennedy.  "I wish we could have returned every single penny, but I'm very proud of what we achieved."

Under the "Refund the Tolls" law, the state Department of Transportation and Development transferred $7.2 million in unclaimed CCC toll monies to the State Treasury in 2013 for refunding by the state's Unclaimed Property Program.  Under the law, all toll monies not refunded will be returned to DOTD for dedicated public transportation uses - 70% will be transferred to the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission for lighting on the Crescent City Connection Bridge and 30% will be put toward funding assistance for the New Orleans ferry system.

The "Refund The Tolls" Program may be over, but the Unclaimed Property Program still holds more than $635 million that is waiting to be claimed by Louisiana residents and businesses.  The money includes payroll checks, old bank accounts, royalties, utility deposits, interest payments, stock certificates and life insurance proceeds. Start your free online search today at or call 1-888-925-4127.
Treasury returns $84,400 in Unclaimed Property to Lafayette area residents at Mall Event

BATON ROUGE, LA - The Louisiana Department of the Treasury returned $84,400 in unclaimed money to hundreds of Lafayette area residents at an Unclaimed Property Awareness Day this weekend at Acadiana Mall, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.

"We were able to return thousands of dollars to people in just five hours. This is why we hold Unclaimed Property Awareness Days at shopping malls. We really want to give this money back to people," said Treasurer Kennedy.

The Treasury visits shopping malls across the state several times a year to increase awareness about the Unclaimed Property Program. Treasury employees are on hand to directly check whether residents have missing money. The average Unclaimed Property claim is usually around $900, but several claims this weekend at the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette exceeded $1,000.

"We still have $635 million that belongs to citizens statewide. Even if you were not able to attend the unclaimed property event this past weekend, you can search for money online. It only takes a few minutes, and there are no strings," said Treasurer Kennedy.

Since 1972, the Unclaimed Property Program has returned more than $338 million to almost 570,000 Louisiana citizens. The money includes payroll checks, old bank accounts, royalties, utility deposits, interest payments, stock certificates and life insurance proceeds. Search online at or call 1-888-925-4127.  
State Bond Commission Approves $25 Million for Local Projects

BATON ROUGE, LA - The State Bond Commission approved $25 million for projects statewide at its Aug. 21 meeting, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.


"We saved taxpayers money and approved projects that will provide drinking water, school transportation and other essential public services," said Treasurer Kennedy. "Citizens in the parishes of Caddo, Calcasieu, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Morehouse and Vermilion will reap the benefits."


Among the individual projects approved were:


  • Caddo, $5.25 million in Taxable Water Revenue Bonds for the town of Greenwood: for acquiring, constructing, and installing additions, extensions, improvements and replacements to the drinking water system, including equipment and fixture.    
  •  Calcasieu, $10 million in Revenue Bonds for the Calcasieu Parish School Board:for acquiring additions and replacements and/or making repairs to school transportation vehicles, facilities and equipment.   
  • Calcasieu,$265,000 in Certificates of Indebtedness for Waterworks District No. 11, Wards 4 and 7: for construction and installation of a water tank and a pipe.
  •  Deridder, $500,000 in Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Community Development Authority: for renovating the swimming pool, pool house and shelter at West Park.
  • Evangeline, $2.5 million in Limited Tax Revenue Bonds for the Evangeline Parish School Board: for data distribution including servers, external and internal rewiring, switches, and related equipment.   
  • Iberia, $2 million in Excess Revenue Bonds for the Iberia Parish Communications District: for capital improvements and the acquisition of furniture, fixtures and equipment and funding a reserve if required.   
  • Iberville, $1 million in Sales Tax Bonds for the town of Maringouin: for constructing a new Town Hall, including furnishings, equipment and accessories.   
  • Morehouse, $775,000 in Limited Tax Bonds for the Morehouse Parish School Board, Consolidated School District No. 12: for acquiring, constructing, improving or equipping public elementary and secondary schools.   
  •  Vermillion Parish, $2.75 million in Water Revenue Bonds for Waterworks District No. 1: for acquiring and constructing improvements and extensions to the waterworks system, including appurtenant equipment and fixtures.   


Statewide, the State Bond Commission approved $259 million in cash lines of credit to continue construction projects across Louisiana.


The Louisiana State Bond Commission meets monthly to review and approve applications from parishes, municipalities, special taxing districts, and other political subdivisions of the State requesting authority to incur debt. For more information, visit

 Opinion Columns

State Obamacares Its Employees' Health Insurance

The state of Louisiana has "Obamacared" its own employees' health insurance plan.  Here's how.

One of the problems with the federal Affordable Care Act (called "Obamacare" by the President himself) is the way it's paid for:  with $700 billion of taxpayer money taken from Medicare.  Many Louisiana officials, myself included, have criticized this.  That's why it's so disappointing and more than a little ironic that the state has done the same thing to its own State Group Benefits (SGB) health insurance plan for 230,000 active and retired state employees, their spouses and children.

According to a July 18 report by the nonpartisan Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO), two years ago, OGB had built up a reserve fund, or savings account, of $540 million to pay its members' health insurance claims.  This money came from premiums paid by employees and employer contributions paid by the state.  Then OGB, which is run by the state Division of Administration, began spending $16.1 million more per month to pay claims than it was collecting in premium revenue.  If this continues, by the end of Fiscal Year 2015, the reserve fund will contain only $5.6 million, according to the LFO.

What happened?  Why is OGB suddenly living off its reserve fund?  According to the LFO, the state has "indirectly utilize[d] OGB's fund balance to support the FY13 and FY14 operating budgets." (LFO Report, p.3).  The state did this by reducing premiums, which helped employees financially but which helped the state even more by reducing the amount of the state's legally-required employer contribution to OGB, which in turn freed up money to spend elsewhere in the budget.

In other words, the state in effect took the money from the OGB reserve account to pay for the state's operating budgets in 2013 and 2014, just like Congress took the money from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

The OGB reserve account is not the only trust fund the state has drained recently.  The Louisiana Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly was established with federal dollars in 2000 to provide a permanent source of money for health care for our elderly.  We were supposed to invest the money, spend the interest and leave the principal in tact.  In 2012 the trust fund contained $519.2 million.  At the end of this fiscal year, it will contain zero.  The state has spent the interest and the principal.

Similarly, in 2011, the state capped the amount of the Millennium Trust Fund (better known as the Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund), whose earnings are used to pay for health care, education and the TOPS college scholarship fund, and redirected the tobacco settlement monies flowing into the trust fund to the operating budget to pay for TOPS, which frees up money to spend elsewhere.  This maneuver thus effectively uses the trust fund money to pay for balancing the budget.

Louisiana state government finances must be stabilized.  The way to do it is not especially complicated:  1) stop draining the state's savings accounts and trust funds; 2) stop spending more money than we take in; and 3) when we do spend money, spend it on things citizens need, not things politicians want. 

Figuring Out the State Police Retirement Controversy

Unless you just parachuted in from Mars, you've probably seen media reports about the retirement bill recently passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor (Act 859) that boosts the retirement benefits for a small number (allegedly two) of Louisiana State Police Troopers.  The benefits-boosting provision, again according to media reports, was added to an unrelated bill on the last day of the legislative session by a six-person conference committee that did not meet publicly.  All six of the conferees say they did not sponsor the amendment.

It's important we get the facts about what happened, how and why for two reasons.  First, fairness.  Whether you are a prince or a pauper, a king or a pawn, our retirement laws should apply equally to everyone.  Second, cost.  Louisiana's four state retirement systems have a $19 billion deficit (called an unfunded accrued liability, or UAL, in accounting terms), which according to Standard & Poor's is the sixth worst in America.  That means the present and projected future assets of the systems are $19 billion less than the retirement payments promised by law and guaranteed by taxpayers and the state constitution.  The Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) has a $323 million UAL.

I sit on the Board of Trustees of the LSPRS as State Treasurer.  My fellow board members and I take seriously our fiduciary obligation to protect the system's assets for the 933 active state troopers, 893 retired troopers and 341 troopers' survivors.  We have directed our legal counsel to investigate the facts surrounding the passage and signing of Act 859 and report back to us within the month.  We have asked for the answers to the following nonexclusive questions:


  1. How many people will Act 859 benefit?


  1. Who are the people who will benefit, so they can be invited to speak to the LSPRS Board to explain their side of the story?


  1. What is the cost of Act 859 to the retirement system and its members?


  1. Is it true that the actuarial note discussing the cost of Act 859 was added three days after the bill passed and, if so, why?


  1. What would it cost to give the same retirement benefit increase to all troopers and their dependents who are similarly situated?


  1. Who sponsored the benefits-boosting amendment, so they can be invited to speak to the LSPRS Board to explain why they offered it?


  1. Does the amendment satisfy the legal requirement of proper notice for a retirement benefits bill?


  1. Does the amendment meet the legal requirement of "germaneness"(relevance) to the amended bill?


  1. Does the amendment violate the state constitutional prohibition (art. I, §23)against the Legislature passing a law that impairs the obligation of contracts?


  1. Does the amendment satisfy the state constitutional requirement (art. I, §3) of equal protection of the laws?


  1. Does the process by which the amendment was adopted violate the Legislature's internal rules?


  1. What are the Board's legal options? 


Let's get the facts.  I do not believe the LSPRS Board of Trustees will tolerate preferential treatment to the detriment of other active and retired troopers and their families, if indeed that is what is found to have happened. 


Taxpayers to Pay for Sex Change Surgery

On May 30, President Obama directed Medicare to begin paying for "gender reassignment surgery," commonly known as sex change surgery, which costs between $25,000 and $75,000 per patient depending upon the gender chosen.  Medicaid will likely follow, as it usually tracks Medicare's coverage provisions.  (N.Y. Times, 5/31/14, p. A14; Wall St. Journal, 5/30/14).  This additional cost is yet one more reason why Louisiana needs to fix its Medicaid Program before we can no longer afford it.

Medicare is federal health insurance for seniors and the disabled.  It costs American taxpayers $486 billion a year.  Medicaid, on the other hand, is a federal and state government health insurance program for the poor.  The states run it but the feds put up much of the money (about 67% in Louisiana).  Medicaid costs American taxpayers $415 billion a year.  Louisiana taxpayers pay $8 billion a year for Medicaid, which provides free health care to 1.4 million state Medicaid enrollees and, through Medicaid's Disproportionate Share Program, another 850,000 uninsured Louisianians.

Both Medicare and Medicaid are approaching insolvency.  Think of Thelma and Louise in that car driving toward the cliff.  Medicare expenditures began exceeding income annually in 2008.  Similarly, federal actuaries at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that Medicaid expenditures will grow 8.7% annually through 2020.  Louisiana's current Medicaid budget of $8 billion, up from $935 million in 1988, will cost $13 billion a year in 2020 if the CBO is correct.  Since Medicaid, unlike Medicare, is paid for with General Fund revenues, increases in Medicaid spending crowd out funding for pre-K to 12 education, universities, roads, public safety, coastal restoration and economic development.

All of us want every Louisianian and every American to have access to quality health care.  There's no free lunch, however.  If someone can't afford medical treatment, government pays for it with taxpayer money.  Taxpayers who are asked to pay are entitled to also ask whether their money is being spent wisely and effectively.

Medicaid as we know it is dysfunctional.  According to a June 2006 report by the Public Affairs Research Council ("Action Steps for Access to Care"), Medicaid in Louisiana pays for 900,000 visits annually to emergency rooms for nonemergencies (think acne, eye examinations, insomnia and pregnancy tests); spends 43% of its programmatic dollars on only 3% of its enrollees (Louisiana Medicaid Annual Report 2012-2013); wastes money in its prescription drug program (The Advocate, 6/30/14, p. A1); and, according to a study of 6387 patients in the Oregon Medicaid expansion that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine ("The Oregon Experiment - Effects of Medicaid on Clinical Outcomes," 5/2/13), does not lead to better health outcomes.  And despite the fact that Louisiana taxpayers are spending record amounts of funds on the program, 40% of our physician are not accepting new Medicaid patients, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (N.Y. Times, 11/28/13), in large part because provider rates are so low the physicians lose money.

America and Louisiana need to fix Medicaid. 

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