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|Treasury Returns $412,291.67 In Unclaimed Property To New Orleans Area Residents At Lakeside Shopping Center|
BATON ROUGE, LA - The Louisiana Department of the Treasury returned $412,291.67 in unclaimed money to thousands of New Orleans area residents this weekend at Lakeside Shopping Center, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.
"We go to malls with laptops throughout the year to make it easy for Louisianians to search for Unclaimed Property," said Treasurer Kennedy. "We have nearly $750 million in Unclaimed Property. You have a better chance of finding Unclaimed Property in the state treasury than you do of winning the lottery."
The Unclaimed Property program has returned more than $407 million to almost 630,000 Louisiana citizens since 1972. A few times a year, Treasury employees go to shopping malls to increase awareness about the Unclaimed Property program.
"One gentleman who came to the mall Saturday found nearly $12,000," said Treasurer Kennedy. "If you weren't able to make it to Lakeside, then check our online database or give us a call. We want to return this money."
Treasurer Kennedy encourages Louisiana residents who could not attend Saturday's Unclaimed Property Awareness Day to search for missing money online at www.LATreasury.com or call the Treasury's toll-free hotline at 1-888-925-4127 (Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).
|Treasury and Lakeside Shopping Center To Host Unclaimed Property Event|
BATON ROUGE, LA - Louisiana now has more than $700 million in Unclaimed Property, and New Orleans area residents can get help searching the database at an Unclaimed Property Awareness Day on Saturday, July 16, at Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie.
"Stop by the mall, and we'll plug your name into our computer database," said State Treasurer John Kennedy. "If you find something, we'll help you fill out the paperwork to claim it. The average claim is $900 so it's worth your while to come see us. We always find a lot of money at these events."
Employees from the Treasury's Unclaimed Property Division will be stationed in the Center Court at the Lakeside Shopping Center, located at 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd. in Metairie, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Treasury employees will help citizens file Unclaimed Property claims.
Individuals attending Saturday's event are asked to bring a valid photo ID and Social Security Card to speed up the processing of claims. Checks for all approved claims will be issued and mailed after the event.
The average claim usually includes old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, CDs, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments, utility deposits and similar funds. Since 1972, the Unclaimed Property Program has returned more than $407 million to more than 620,000 Louisiana citizens. Treasurer Kennedy encourages Louisiana residents who cannot attend Saturday's Unclaimed Property Awareness Day to search for missing money online at www.LATreasury.com or call the Treasury's toll-free hotline at 1-888-925-4127 (Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).
|State Releases Revenue Collections For Entire Fiscal Year|
BATON ROUGE, La. - The June 2016 Net Receipts Report shows that total state revenue thus far for 2015-2016 was $7.382 billion, a 5% decrease compared to that time last year. The low point for the year was December, when revenue was down 15%. Revenue has steadily climbed, for the most part, since then.
The numbers have been corrected to add in millions of dollars in previously unreported miscellaneous tax receipts. In May, for example, the state actually collected $309 million in miscellaneous tax receipts, not the $196 million previously reported. The Department of Revenue attributed the discrepancy to a failure to incorporate the new tobacco tax increase. Miscellaneous taxes include taxes on tobacco, alcohol, inheritances and gifts.
The report contains a complete set of revenue collections for the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year and shows that revenue collections steadily grew from one month to the next. State sales tax collections improved significantly in June compared to that time last year. Also in June, the decline in severance tax collections continued to decrease compared to that time last year.
The report includes receipts for sales tax, individual income tax, general severance tax, corporation and franchise tax, gasoline and special fuels tax and miscellaneous taxes cash receipts. The report does not include gambling revenues, fees, self-generated revenue and statutory dedications.
General sales tax cash receipts for FY 2015-2016 to-date are $2.902 billion, for an increase of $189 million or 7% compared to last year. General sales tax cash receipts this time last year were $2.713 billion, which was $42 million more than the prior year.
Individual income tax cash receipts for FY 2015-2016 to-date are $2.865 billion, for a decrease of $49 million or 2% compared to last year. Individual income tax cash receipts this time last year were $2.914 billion, which was $92 million more than the prior year.
General severance tax cash receipts for FY 2015-2016 to-date are $445 million, for a decrease of $290 million or 39% compared to last year. General severance tax cash receipts this time last year were $735 million, which was $92 million less than the prior year.
Corporation and franchise tax cash receipts for FY 2015-2016 to-date are $195 million, for a decrease of $302 million or 61% compared to last year. Corporation and franchise tax cash receipts this time last year were $497 million, which was $127 million less than the prior year.
|We Still Have A Spending Problem|
Louisiana just became a more expensive place to live, work, play, raise a family and own a business.
As we all know, legislators watched winter turn into spring and then spring turn into summer at the State Capitol this year. They spent 19 weeks in legislative session.
Here's what was accomplished: State government now has the second largest budget in Louisiana history (second only to the post-Hurricane Katrina days when state government was a mere conduit for the millions of federal taxpayer dollars that flowed through to help our people rebuild). Counting last year's regular session, the legislature raised $2.4 billion in new taxes and fees. Not all legislators went along; many fought valiantly against the Governor and his supporters, who apparently believe we are one tax increase away from prosperity. But the governor won, and it's the largest tax increase in Louisiana's history. What's worse, not a single bill that even remotely resembles spending reform passed.
And there's talk Governor Edwards may call lawmakers back to the Capitol in the fall. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure my family can afford that.
Louisiana businesses, many struggling, are going to feel the impact. Louisiana families that already are hurting from a depressed oil and gas industry and Mother Nature's wrath in north Louisiana from the March floods are going to feel the impact. It couldn't come at a worse time: We have the third highest unemployment rate in the country, and it's climbing.
The state budget now tops $26 billion. If you add in spending for the Legislature, the judicial branch and other state government expenses, the budget tips the scale at more than $31 billion. It's absolutely breathtaking. It's also $3 billion more than last year.
Now some people will tell you the budget's big because we put off paying bills and because we expanded Medicaid and really the increase is all federal dollars. First of all, where do you think those federal dollars came from? The taxpayers supply them. They're not plucked off a tree in the back yard of the White House. Second of all, it's not all federal dollars.
Out of our $26 billion budget, $12 billion is federal funds and $14 billion is state funds. That's 31% more state money than we had in 2010. I don't know about you, but my family's income hasn't gone up 31% since 2010. State taxes and fees were raised to generate a lot of that increase. In fact, we now have the highest sales tax rate in America.
The sad thing is the budget has soared during an especially trying time for so many Louisianians. Every day, there's news about more layoffs. Between December 2015 and May 2016, our unemployment rate steadily increased. Kids graduating college are having trouble finding jobs. People in their 50s who have been with the same company for decades are scouring for anything that will keep food on the table.
What's even more astonishing is that we have the largest tax increase in Louisiana history and yet TOPS isn't fully funded. K-12 education is taking a funding hit. And we might have to take out a loan in order to maintain cash flow.
How can we still not pay our bills? Clearly, we have a spending problem.
|We Can Reduce Our Medicaid Costs|
Malcolm Bird was a first-time father with a toddler whose pinky finger was bleeding. He rushed his young daughter to a Connecticut emergency room, where a doctor washed off the finger and put a Band-Aid on it. That Band-Aid, which fell off in the car on the way home, cost Mr. Bird $629.
Mr. Bird learned the hard way what most of us already know. The emergency room is an expensive place to treat minor injuries. If your kid cuts her finger, just wash it off and slap a Band-Aid on it. If your kid breaks her leg on a trampoline, go to the emergency room.
Unfortunately, too many people treat the emergency room like a primary care physician's office, and they don't just do it once like Mr. Bird. They run to the emergency room when their stomach's upset, they're depressed, their back hurts or they get a pimple.
The emergency room is expensive because it's expensive to run. It exists to save lives, not to dispense really pricey Band-Aids or aspirin. Our health care budget in Louisiana is out of control, and we've got to cut costs. As state treasurer, I'm constantly juggling funds for agencies because revenue isn't supporting expenses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 136.3 million people a year visit an emergency room in the U.S. Only 11.9% require hospitalization. Among Medicaid patients, emergency room use is especially high (nearly two-fold higher than those with private insurance).
In Louisiana, we need to care about emergency room use because we're in the process of adding 375,000 people to the Medicaid rolls. More than one million people in Louisiana already are on Medicaid. Federal and state governments share the cost of Medicaid, which means the taxpayer really foots the bill.
A few years ago, Washington state started looking at utilization of the emergency room by Medicaid patients as the program's costs soared amid the economic recession. Some patients were going to the emergency room more than 100 times a year. Washington state found that 85 percent of the frequent visitors had serious mental health problems and 48 percent had substance abuse issues.
The state's political leadership asked the state's hospitals and doctors to sit down and come up with some solutions. Legislation produced reforms that actually are working and saving the state millions of dollars.
Hospitals now exchange information electronically. They hand out educational materials about alternatives to using the ER. They catalog frequent users of their emergency rooms. They help them get an appointment with a primary care doctor when they need a follow-up visit. They discourage patients from visiting the emergency room to get a prescription for their narcotic fix.
Washington state seized on something commonly identified by health care researchers. A lot of Medicaid patients are misusing the emergency room because they don't have a primary care doctor that they see regularly.
The results of the reforms were tracked for a year. Here's what happened: emergency room visits dropped nearly 10%; visits resulting in a scheduled drug prescription dropped 24%; and the rate of visits by those who visited five or more times annually dropped 10.7%. Even better, the reforms helped save the state $33.6 million. These reforms still are in place, and all hospitals in Washington state are participating. We should take a page from Washington state's book. We can cut down on unnecessary visits to the emergency room. We can cut Medicaid costs. No one needs a $629 Band-Aid.
|More State Government Contracts|
Louisiana state government has at least 18,710 consultants on its payroll. I say "at least" because the sad fact is, according to the Legislative Auditor, the state doesn't even know the exact number of consultants it has, because there is no central database listing all of them. Furthermore, the database we do have has been changed by the Division of Administration to make it less transparent.
Many of the state's consulting contracts could be eliminated, reduced or given to our universities in order to save taxpayer money.
Below are a few of the consulting contracts you are paying for or have paid for in the past. There are many more:
* Contract #2000121024; "Educational Guidance Services Contract;" New Orleans South Africa; $1,670,421.
* Contract #702019; "Provide spiritual and religious guidance to inmates at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center and Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women and serve as imam (Muslim spiritual adviser);" Haneef Hanee Uqdah; $39,980.
* Contract #733168; "Accompany and coordinate the travel of university officials to China for business meetings and serve as logistics coordinator and translator in China;" United Matrix International; $49,999.99.
* Contract #4400007574; "Outdoor sculpture for community education building at LSU Eunice;" Obie Simonis of Somerville, Massachusetts; $60,000.
* Contract number unavailable on database website; "Sponsor the Aerospace Alliance Reception to be held in Paris, France, in connection with the Paris Air Show 2015 Event;" The Aerospace Alliance; $25,000.
* Contract #717427; "Research on the Effects of the Macondo Oil Spill on Coastal Ecosystems;" University of Tennessee; $551,797.
* Contract #2000125629; "Sales and Business Promotion Activities;" BBR Creative Inc.; $11,412,916.90.
* Contract #2000135946; "Sponsor activities for the Travel South International Showcase in Charlotte, North Carolina;" Travel South USA of Atlanta, Ga.; $35,000.
* Contract #2000121498; "Educational Guidance Services Contract;" Just One Word Inc., $1,015,200.
* Contract #681869; "State sponsorship of Chimpanzee Discovery Days, involving broad media attention to observation of chimpanzees in a spacious forestry habitat;" Chimp Haven Inc.; $10,000.
* Contract #714507; "Research on the Effects of the Macondo Oil Spill;" Rutgers University; $413,357.
Louisiana state government has a spending problem.