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 Press Releases

1/28/2015
Treasurer Kennedy Lauds Congressional Leaders For Killing Tax Increase on College Savings Plans

BATON ROUGE, LA - State Treasurer John Kennedy applauded U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other congressional leaders Wednesday for successfully stymieing President Obama's proposal to tax withdrawals from college savings plans.

"The president's proposal would have been detrimental to middle class families and students in Louisiana. Saving for your child's college education is something every parent should try to do. Often, it's a financial sacrifice to put money into a savings program," said Treasurer Kennedy. "Parents know it's a sacrifice that will reap rewards by paying for their children's education and ensuring a good future for them."

President Obama's tax increase proposal would have impacted what are known as 529 college savings plans. Louisiana has a 529 college saving plan - known as the START program. Thousands of Louisiana taxpayers put money into START each year. START has more than 50,000 participants and nearly $590 million in account balances. Under the president's original proposal, withdrawals from college savings plans would have been declared as income. The proposal would have amounted to a bait-and-switch move since contributors invested in the accounts with the understanding their withdrawals would be tax-free.

According to numerous media reports, Boehner and others, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, led a bipartisan charge to convince the president that the proposal needed to be withdrawn. The White House told "The Wall Street Journal" that the tax increase proposal has been dropped because it became a distraction.

"Speaker Boehner and other leaders pressured the president to drop this bad proposal. They were right to pressure him," said Treasurer Kennedy. "If the president's tax increase became a reality, it would hurt the middle class, the backbone of American society. We don't want to take away a savings incentive and saddle Louisianians with more student loan debt. This proposal is now in the garbage where it belongs. The American dream is safe."

1/26/2015
Treasury Returns Nearly $400,000 in Unclaimed Property to New Orleans Area Residents at Mall Event in Metairie

BATON ROUGE, LA - The Louisiana Department of the Treasury returned nearly $400,000 in unclaimed money to thousands of New Orleans area residents at an Unclaimed Property Awareness Day this weekend at Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.

"People are always surprised to find they have Unclaimed Property. We found $50,000 for one gentleman," said Treasurer Kennedy. "More than $150 million was available to be claimed in the New Orleans area, and we returned around $394,000 of it."

Since 1972, the Unclaimed Property program has returned more than $338 million to almost 570,000 Louisiana citizens. Treasurer Kennedy and Unclaimed Property employees travel to shopping malls and other venues to locate Unclaimed Property owners several times a year.

The average Unclaimed Property claim is $660. Unclaimed Property includes old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, CDs, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and utility payments. When a business cannot locate someone, usually because of a wrong address, the state receives the money for safekeeping.

"We get more money in every day. We're constantly updating our database," said Treasurer Kennedy. "If you missed us at the mall, take a minute to search online."

Search online at
www.LATreasury.com or call 1-888-925-4127.

1/23/2015
Louisiana Taxpayers Save $109 Million in Refinancing

BATON ROUGE, LA - The State of Louisiana refinanced more than $649 million in Gasoline and Fuels Tax Bonds yesterday, generating over $109 million in debt service savings (net present value of $70 million) for taxpayers, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.

"Just like homeowners refinance their mortgages to achieve savings, we refinanced these bonds to capture lower interest rates," said Treasurer Kennedy. "The state will pay less in debt service, resulting in significant savings."

The interest savings can only be used for highway projects in the TIMED program. State law prohibits using the money for other state needs.

"We cannot use this money to solve the state's budget problems. We still need to sit down and determine why the state isn't living within its means," said Treasurer Kennedy. "These savings will help us tackle important transportation projects."

The new interest rate is 3.669 percent, down from 4.720 percent.

Citigroup served as Senior Underwriter for the bond deal. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Loop Capital Markets and Raymond James & Associates, Inc. served as Co-Managers; Lamont Financial Services Corporation as Financial Advisor; Foley & Judell, L.L.P., Bond Counsel; and Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. as Underwriter's Counsel.

 Opinion Columns

1/20/2015
Leave TOPS Alone
The year was 1988. A successful New Orleans businessman named Patrick F. Taylor had a speech to give. His audience was 183 restless middle schoolers who weren't college bound. Heck, many weren't even high school bound. They were biding their time until they could drop out of school.

Instead of a pep talk, Taylor decided to make a pitch. He would pay for the kids to go to college if they kept going to class, stayed out of trouble and maintained a "B" average. With that promise, Taylor established the building blocks for TOPS.

TOPS (the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students) is the state-funded college scholarship program that has benefited more than 200,000 kids in Louisiana. It doesn't just send kids to LSU or Southern. It sends them to truck driving school if they want to drive a truck. It sends them to court reporting school if they want to become a court reporter. In other words, TOPS fulfills dreams.

Now some will tell you that TOPS has become too expensive. They'll tell you the sky is falling. They'll tell you the state budget is on a collision course, and TOPS is helping fuel the inevitable crash. They'll tell you that changes can be made gradually to make the program more affordable for the state. Here's what I say: Leave TOPS alone. We can't afford to diminish what TOPS does for our state.

The Hamilton Project, an arm of the Brookings Institution, crunched the numbers last year on what a college degree is worth. Not surprisingly, a degree in chemical engineering is more of a moneymaker than a drama degree. Also not surprisingly, any degree is better than no degree. The Hamilton Project's conclusion: "Median earnings of bachelor's degree graduates are higher than median earnings of high school graduates for all 80 majors studied." For every successful college dropout like Bill Gates, there are a thousand other dropouts clocking in at minimum wage jobs and not making a living wage.

Patrick Taylor knew the importance of a college education. He left home at 16 and made his way to LSU, which didn't charge tuition at the time. Today, it easily costs $10,000 in tuition and fees a year to attend LSU as a full-time student once books and summer classes are included. That's a hefty bill for a middle class family with four other kids still at home.

Now I don't want to shock you, but Louisiana is not a wealthy state. Median income is well below the national average. We're rich in culture, food, history and tradition. Economically, we often struggle. That's why education is so important. Our future can be better than our present or our past, but only if our kids go to school.

We offer our kids a free elementary school education. We offer them a free high school education. But a high school education isn't always enough. We need to continue to offer young Louisianians help with a college education if we expect them to succeed in a keenly competitive, global, knowledge-based economy. We also need to continue to give them an incentive to stay in Louisiana, instead of migrating to Denver and Dallas and Atlanta.

Georgia has a form of TOPS. It's called HOPE. In 2011, big changes were made to HOPE - changes that were made in the name of saving the state money. Suddenly, technical college students had to maintain a higher grade-point average. Tuition assistance was slashed. The result was that 62,504 fewer kids received HOPE. Within two years, Georgia backpedaled on the changes.

We should not make the same mistake in Louisiana that Georgia made. TOPS has been a roaring success. Sixty nine percent of the more than 62,000 students who received an initial TOPS payment between the 2002-03 and 2006-07 academic years graduated from a Louisiana public college. That's a triumph.

I'll leave you with Patrick Taylor's take on why TOPS matters: "Attendance at public colleges and universities must be based on the ability to learn and not the ability to pay."
1/5/2015
Let People Pray at LSU

Fifty years ago, administrators at the University of California at Berkeley tried to curtail free speech on campus. They quickly had a situation on their hands: Hundreds of protesters materialized, a priest clambered onto the top of a police car to quiet the crowd and students swarmed the Administration Building. Eventually, the governor intervened, telling the university's president to broker a truce. The Free Speech Movement was born.

Maybe you weren't a child of the 1960s. Maybe you weren't even alive in the 1960s. Rest assured, the 1960s were more than Woodstock, bad hairdos and really good music. The era helped cement the idea that college campuses are a place for intellectual freedom and free speech.

A Christian prayer rally featuring Gov. Bobby Jindal that's scheduled for January 24 at LSU in Baton Rouge should take place as planned regardless of what you think of the organizers or what you think about the rally's content. Free speech is just that, the freedom to speak your mind. I can think of no better forum for free speech than a public college campus.

Our colleges teach our young people and stimulate their minds. It's on campuses that they explore the issues and find their own voices. Students deserve a full catalog of choices.

Fifty years after the Free Speech Movement, however, there are some who want to muzzle the First Amendment right to free speech on college campuses. They are wrong. "I do not agree with what you have to say," the 18th Century philosopher Voltaire once said, "but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire was also a staunch advocate of freedom of religion, realizing, correctly, that freedom of speech and worship are inextricably related.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas put it this way: "The framers of the Constitution knew human nature as well as we do. They too had lived in dangerous days. They too knew the suffocating influence of orthodoxy and standardized thought. They weighed the compulsions for restrained speech and thought against the abuses of liberty. They chose liberty."

The objections being raised to the LSU prayer rally are undoubtedly sincere, even if you don't agree with them. The primary objection is with the rally's sponsor, the American Family Association, a religious group that opposes gay marriage and homosexual rights. The LSU Faculty Senate and many students have characterized the prayer rally as damaging to the university's reputation. Protests are planned. Both the prayer rally and the protests should be allowed to take place. It's a slippery slope when you tell people whose opinions you disagree with that they can't speak or assemble or worship their God on a college campus. Intellectual freedom is about the free exchange of ideas.

Full disclosure: I'm a practicing Methodist. But I'd feel the same way if the LSU rally was to promote atheism.

Let people pray at LSU. And let people protest too. 

12/8/2014
Search For Unclaimed Property

Our phones have been ringing off the hook since we published the names of people with Unclaimed Property in newspapers across the state.  The sound of those phones ringing is almost as sweet as the sound of a church choir singing "Silent Night" because it means we're returning money to Louisianians.

 

That's right.  Unclaimed Property is money; it's not a plot of land.  How nice would it be to have a little extra cash for your Christmas shopping?

 

We returned more than $35 million last year, shattering records and making a tiny dent in the amount of money stacked up in the state treasury.  We're still holding more than $635 million in Unclaimed Property for residents and businesses.

 

As State Treasurer, I try to publicize the program as best I can.  I set up booths at malls.  I run people's names in newspapers. Still, people are surprised to find they have money in the state treasury.

 

So what is Unclaimed Property?  It's lost money, such as payroll checks, bank accounts, royalties, utility deposits, interest payments, stock certificates and life insurance proceeds.  If a business can't find you, they send the money to us.  We hold it until we locate you.

 

Your grandmother may have purchased a small savings bond for you and forgotten about it.  Your uncle may have written your name down as the beneficiary on a life insurance policy and never told you.  Your car insurance company may have tried to send you a refund when you cancelled your policy but couldn't find you because you moved from Bossier City to Breaux Bridge.  Your employer may have given you stock options that you neglected to cash out when you switched jobs.

 

I've returned money to celebrities and political figures.  Most recently, I mailed a check to singer Aaron Neville.

 

It's not just the rich and famous who have money in the state treasury.  Cash belonging to every day citizens is contributing to that more than $635 million balance.

 

The other day, we phoned a woman in north Louisiana.  Her husband took out a life insurance policy before he died and neglected to tell her about it.  We'll be mailing her a $60,000 check.

 

A family estrangement caused two siblings to lose touch.  When one died, the other had no way of knowing about a nearly $200,000 insurance policy.  We were able to find the beneficiaries.

 

In Monroe, a mother must have forgotten about her life insurance policy because she told her offspring that she didn't have one.  Imagine the surprise when we uncovered one worth thousands of dollars.

 

Now, unfortunately, we cannot call everyone whose name is in our database.  We just don't have the manpower.  Tracking people down often requires a little detective work because people move or they have common surnames.

 

Please log onto www.LATreasury.com and search our database.  You also can call us at (888) 925-4127.

 

It is completely free to search for and claim Unclaimed Property.  There are absolutely no strings.  This is a public service.

 

In the meantime, allow me to wish you a Merry Christmas and much happiness in the new year.

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