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 Press Releases

8/26/2016
Flood Victims Are Entitled To State Sales Tax Refunds

BATON ROUGE, LA - Louisiana residents in presidential declared disaster areas impacted by the March and August floods can file for a refund of state sales tax they paid on personal property destroyed by the floods, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.

"The state will reimburse you for the state sales tax you paid on any portion of destroyed property not reimbursed by insurance or disaster relief," said Treasurer Kennedy. "The reimbursement applies to furniture, rugs, utensils, clothing, linens, televisions, cameras, toys, exercise equipment, books and even lawn mowers."

The state sales tax refund is specifically for Louisiana residents whose homes were impacted by a natural disaster, such as the recent flooding in March and August. Claims should be filed with the Louisiana Department of Revenue. The secretary of that department can waive documentation requirements if original receipts are not available. The refund applies to the state sales tax paid on the destroyed property. Residents have three years to file a claim. Destroyed food, cars, boats and ATVs are not eligible.

To learn more, visit www.latreasury.com and click on "Sales Tax Disaster Relief."

8/23/2016
Treasurer Kennedy Offers Important Information on Financial Assistance for Flooded Businesses

BATON ROUGE, LA. - State Treasurer John Kennedy today encouraged businesses impacted by the flooding to explore financial assistance with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

"Many of our businesses did not have flood insurance. This disaster is devastating for them," said Treasurer Kennedy. "The Small Business Administration offers a life raft through low interest federal disaster loans that can be repaid over a number of years."

Loans from the Small Business Administration fall into two categories:

  • Business Physical Disaster Loans are loans to businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property owned by the business. Qualifying property includes real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment. Businesses of any size are eligible. Private, non-profit organizations such as charities, churches, private universities, etc., are also eligible.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster. These loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period.

 

A business recovery center now is open in Walker to give business owners the opportunity to meet with SBA workers. Business owners do not need to make an appointment or pay for the services. The center is located in Room 101 of the Literacy and Technology Center at Southeastern Louisiana University's Clausen Family Building, 9261 Florida Blvd., in Walker. The hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Business Recovery Centers also are open in Prairieville, Baton Rouge and Baker.

Businesses in need of assistance can call the Small Business Administration at 1-800-659-2955 or visit www.sba.gov/disaster. FEMA does not give grants to businesses. However, FEMA is a referral agency for disaster relief. To contact FEMA, call 1-800-621-3362.

8/18/2016
State Bond Commission Approves $141 Million for Local Projects


 

BATON ROUGE, LA - The State Bond Commission approved $141 million for projects statewide and approved more than $26 million in interest savings at its August 18 meeting, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.

"We approved financing for important public infrastructure projects in Caddo and Caldwell parishes," said Treasurer Kennedy. "We also continue to approve interest savings, which save Louisiana taxpayers money."

Among the individual projects approved were:

  • Acadia Parish, $400,000 in Certificates of Indebtedness for Fire Protection District No. 10: for purchasing a fire fighting motor vehicle and related equipment.
  • Ascension Parish, $4,105,000 in Water Utility Revenue Bonds for the Ascension Parish Council: saving taxpayers $698,000.
  • Caddo Parish, $20 million in Taxable Water and Sewer Revenue Bonds for the city of Shreveport's DEQ Project: for additions, extensions and improvements to the wastewater portion of the combined drinking water and wastewater collections, treatment and disposal system, including equipment and fixtures.
  • Caldwell Parish, $225,000 in Taxable Sewer Revenue Bonds for the East Columbia Sewerage District No. 1's DEQ Project: for acquiring, constructing, and installing improvements, extensions, and additions to the wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal system.
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, $30 million in Single Family Mortgage Revenue Refunding Bonds for the Louisiana Housing Corporation: saving taxpayers $10,833,901.
  • Orleans Parish, $65 million in General Obligation Refunding Bonds for the city of New Orleans: saving taxpayers $14,082,646.
  • Ouachita Parish, $10 million in Sales Tax Bonds for the Ouachita Parish Police Jury, West Ouachita Economic Development District: for economic development projects consisting of road and related infrastructure improvements.
  • Ouachita Parish, $2 million in Utility Revenue and Refunding Bonds for the Louisiana Community Development Authority's L & R Utilities, Inc. Project: for (1) approximately $535,000 Refunding Bonds, refunding three outstanding obligations and (2) approximately $1,465,000 Revenue Bonds, acquiring, constructing and installing additional facilities and other improvements.
  • St. Tammany Parish, $5.7 million in General Obligation Refunding Bonds for Recreation District No. 14: saving taxpayers $447,631.
  • Tangipahoa Parish, $3.7 million in Water System Revenue Bonds for the Water District: for (1) construction and acquisition of improvements, extensions, relocations and/or replacements to the waterworks system and (2) funding a debt service reserve fund or purchasing a reserve fund surety, if necessary.


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 www.LATreasury.com.

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 Opinion Columns

7/27/2016
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.

6/10/2016
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.
5/18/2016
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. 
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