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|State Bond Commission Approves $468 Million for Local Projects |
BATON ROUGE, LA - The State Bond Commission approved $468 million for projects statewide and approved more than $2 million in savings at its November 19 meeting, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.
"I'm so proud that we continue to find interest savings on existing projects," said Treasurer Kennedy. "By lowering the interest rates on debt, we're able to free up money. That's a huge plus for our taxpayers."
Among the individual projects approved were:
- Ascension Parish, $656,000 in Taxable Sewer Revenue Bonds for the city of Donaldsonville's DEQ Project: for constructing and acquiring improvements and extensions to the sanitary sewage collection and disposal system, including all necessary land, equipment and furnishings and all engineering, legal and other incidental costs and fees.
- Avoyelles Parish, $825,000 in Water Revenue Bonds for the village of Plaucheville: for acquiring and constructing improvements to the waterworks system, including equipment and fixtures.
- Beauregard Parish, $1.177 million in Certificates of Indebtedness for Hospital Service District No. 2: for acquiring, constructing and installing improvements and replacements to the facilities, including acquiring equipment and fixtures.
- Beauregard Parish, $40,000 in Limited Tax Bonds for the town of Merryville: for (1) constructing improvements to the sewerage system and (2) acquiring necessary equipment and furnishings.
- Caddo Parish, $120 million in Water and Sewer Revenue and Refunding Bonds for the city of Shreveport: saving taxpayers $548,966.
- Caldwell Parish, $2.788 million in Water Revenues Bonds for Columbia Heights Water District: for acquiring and constructing improvements and replacements to the system, including appurtenant equipment and fixtures.
- East Baton Rouge Parish, $6.605 million in Revenue Refunding Bonds for the Louisiana Community Development Authority's Capital Area YMCA Projects: saving $84,594.
- Iberia Parish, $1.35 million in Limited Tax Refunding Bonds for the city of New Iberia: saving taxpayers $32,060.
- Iberia Parish, $6 million in Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Housing Corporation's St. Edwards Subdivision Project: for the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation and equipping of a 100-unit multifamily housing development in New Iberia, Iberia Parish.
- Iberville Parish, $28 million in Limited Tax Refunding Bonds for the Iberville Parish School Board, Consolidated School District No. 5: saving taxpayers $930,519.
- Lafayette Parish, $52 million in Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority's Lafayette General Medical Center Project for: designing, acquiring, constructing, equipping, furnishing, installing and renovating capital projects of the Obligated Group.
- Lincoln Parish, $5.2 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the Lincoln Parish School Board, Ruston School District No. 1: saving taxpayers $368,591.
- Lincoln Parish, $105 million in Refunding and Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Community Development Authority's Louisiana Tech University Student Housing/Innovative Student Facilities, Inc. Project: for (1) approximately $48,250,000 Refunding Bonds, refunding Revenue Bonds, Series 2007 and (2) approximately $56,750,000 Revenue Bonds, (a) acquiring immovable property, (b) design and development of student housing facilities, (c) construction and equipping of new residence halls, (d) renovation of existing residence halls, (e) demolition of certain existing residence halls and (f) construction of associated parking and (3) funding a deposit to a debt service reserve fund or paying the premium for a debt service reserve fund surety policy and funding capitalized interest, if necessary.
- Morehouse Parish, $6.4 million in Street Revenue Bonds for Sales Tax District No. 1: for (1) construction and repair of streets, including needed sidewalk, drainage structures and any and all necessary utility relocation and work related thereto and (2) funding a debt service reserve, if required.
- Ouachita Parish, $1,541,300 in Taxable Sewer Revenue Bonds for the city of West Monroe's DEQ Project: for constructing and installing public improvements that qualify as a "green" infrastructure project.
- Rapides Parish, $6.2 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the Rapides Parish School Board, Consolidated School District No. 62: saving taxpayers $186,359.
- Terrebonne Parish, $8 million in Limited Tax Bonds for the Terrebonne Parish Council's DEQ Project: for providing liquid waste collection and disposal facilities and purchasing necessary sites and equipment.
- Terrebonne Parish, $28 million in Limited Tax Revenue Bonds for the Terrebonne Parish School Board: for purchasing, acquiring and improving capital improvements for the school system, including the necessary sites, equipment and furnishings.
- Terrebonne Parish, $10 million in Sales Tax Revenue Bonds for the Terrebonne Parish School Board: for (1) purchasing, acquiring and improving capital improvements for the school system, including the necessary sites, equipment and furnishings and (2) establishing a reserve.
- Vernon Parish, $2 million in Certificates of Indebtedness for the city of Leesville: for constructing, improving and resurfacing public streets.
- Vernon Parish, $11.5 million in Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Housing Corporation's Twin Lakes of Leesville Project: for acquisition, rehabilitation and equipping four residential rental facilities in Leesville, Vernon Parish.
- West Feliciana Parish, $800,000 in Utilities Revenue Bonds for the town of St. Francisville: for (1) acquiring and constructing a water well and (2) acquiring related equipment.
- Winn Parish, $10.5 million in Sales Tax Bonds for the Winn Parish Law Enforcement District: for the acquisition and construction of a detention center, including acquisition of equipment, fixtures, and furnishings.
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.
|State Revenues Continue To Drop|
BATON ROUGE, LA. - The October 2015 Net Receipts Report shows that total state revenue thus far for 2015-2016 was $2.177 billion, a 14% decrease compared to that time last year. Sales tax receipt growth was up slightly. Personal income, severance and corporation/franchise tax receipts were down.
Since the 2015-2016 state fiscal year began in July, state general fund collections each month have lagged compared to the previous year even though the five year base line projection anticipates a 2.13 percent growth in the state general fund this 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 $910 million, for an increase of $14 million or 2% compared to last year. General sales tax cash receipts this time last year were $896 million, which was $42 million more than the prior year.
Individual income tax cash receipts for FY 2015-2016 to-date are $988 million, for a decrease of $42 million or 4% compared to last year. Individual income tax cash receipts this time last year were $1.030 billion, which was $23 million less than the prior year.
General severance tax cash receipts for FY 2015-2016 to-date are $181 million, for a decrease of $127 million or 41% compared to last year. General severance tax cash receipts this time last year were $308 million, which was $15 million more than the prior year.
Corporation and franchise tax cash receipts for FY 2015-2016 to-date are a negative $211 million, for a decrease of $228 million or 1,341% compared to last year. Corporation and franchise tax cash receipts this time last year were $17 million, which was $36 million less than the prior year.
Gasoline and special fuels tax cash receipts for FY 2015-2016 to-date are $209 million, for an increase of $6 million or 3% compared to last year. Gasoline and special fuels tax cash receipts this time last year were $203 million, which was $4 million more than the prior year.
Miscellaneous taxes cash receipts for FY 2015-2016 to-date are $62 million, for a decrease of $13 million or 17% compared to last year. Miscellaneous taxes cash receipts this time last year were $75 million, which was $14 million more than the prior year.
To view the report in its entirety, visit www.latreasury.com and click "Net Receipts Statement for the Month of October 2015."
|Louisiana's START College Savings Program Named Fifth Best In U.S.|
BATON ROUGE, LA - Christian Science Monitor news organization has named Louisiana's START College Savings Program as the fifth best 529 plan in the nation, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.
"START is a great program for several reasons," said Treasurer Kennedy. "It allows parents to make an investment in their children's future. As Christian Science Monitor noted, START helps parents save for their kids' college education with little to no fees."
A 529 plan, like START, is a savings mechanism that allows investors to set aside what they can and have the money professionally managed for future educational expenses. Disbursements for qualified expenses such as tuition are not subject to state or federal taxes.
An investor can exempt up to $2,400 in deposits per account per year from income reported on Louisiana state tax returns. Married couples filing jointly can exempt up to $4,800 per year.
"All you need to open a START account is $10," said Treasurer Kennedy. "START puts saving for college in just about every parent's reach. I'm proud that we have such a great program in Louisiana."
START has more than 52,000 active participants and nearly $600 million in total assets. For more information on Louisiana's START Saving Program, visit the Treasury's website at www.LATreasury.com.
|Entire State Needs New Orleans To Be Safe|
Imagine going to a Mardi Gras parade with your family in New Orleans. You pick a good spot on St. Charles Avenue, unfold the lawn chairs and tell your kids to stay out of the street once the parade starts. Then the floats start moving. You enjoy the moment until the shooting begins.
That was the scene in Central City on Fat Tuesday last year, when two men died in a gunfight as a parade rolled past. It wasn't an isolated incident.
Months later, 10 people were shot on Bourbon Street. The shooting - believed to be a violent battle between thugs that caught innocents in the crosshairs - took the life of a young nursing student and spilled blood on a French Quarter street that is always thick with tourists. Gunfire during broad daylight often competes with the clatter of the streetcars throughout New Orleans.
As a father, the violence concerns me. Our kids shouldn't have to invest in bulletproof vests just to attend a Mardi Gras Parade on St. Charles Avenue. As state treasurer, the violence concerns me from a financial standpoint. New Orleans generates more than $300 million a year in state sales and income taxes. That money helps support the state budget, and it comes from tourists and residents, who won't visit or will move if the violence continues.
We've got to get the thugs, the dope and the illegal guns off the streets. The only way to do that is to empower our police by allowing them to use the law enforcement procedure called stop-question-and-frisk.
Stop-question-and-frisk, sometimes called stop-and-frisk, was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968. The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Court held, allows a police officer to stop, question and, if necessary, frisk a suspect without probable cause to arrest if the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe the suspect has committed or is about to commit a crime. "Reasonable suspicion" is not hard evidence, but it is more than a hunch. For example, reasonable suspicion exists if an officer sees someone with a coat hanger peering into parked cars. The officer does not have probable cause to arrest the suspect - the officer has not seen the suspect commit a crime - but the officer can stop, question and, if necessary, pat down the suspect for a weapon.
Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg used stop-and-frisk to clean up New York City. Violent crimes fell 29 percent from 2001 to 2010. The violent crime rate in NYC has gone up since Mayor de Blasio curtailed the use of stop-and-frisk.
Now I know the ACLU is going to object. The ACLU thinks stop-and-frisk inevitably leads to racial profiling. The ACLU thinks that every New Orleans cop is a racist. I don't. Racial profiling is wrong, but the NOPD is one of the most diverse police forces in the country, and I don't believe the NOPD will engage in some vast conspiracy to deny people their constitutional rights.
Please don't get me wrong. New Orleans is a magnificent city. People flock there from across the globe to sample the food, the jazz and the history.
New Orleans is the town of Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino. It's where many Acadians first set foot on Louisiana's shore after their expulsion from Nova Scotia. It's where a college dropout named William Faulkner discovered he had a knack for writing. In many ways, New Orleans is one of the cultural cornerstones of Louisiana.
When you're presented with a problem, you have to settle on a solution. It's the only way ahead. And New Orleans has a problem: crime. Crime has the city by the throat, chasing away tourists and hard-working Louisiana citizens.
There is also a solution. We've got to pursue a stop-question-and-frisk program in New Orleans to get the thugs, the dope and the illegal guns off the streets.
Once the thugs get the idea that they can be stopped, questioned and frisked, they won't carry illegal guns. Once they stop carrying illegal guns, there won't be shootings at Mardi Gras parades and in the French Quarter. It's that simple. New Orleans is too important to the rest of the state for us not to take action.
|Louisiana Still Needs A Medical School In Lafayette|
The looming physician shortage in Louisiana reminds me of the premise behind the 1990s television show “Northern Exposure.”
“Northern Exposure” featured a young doctor duped into setting up practice in the wilds of Alaska. In a nutshell, the doctor failed to read the fine print for the scholarship that put him through medical school and found himself assigned to a rural Alaskan town desperately in need of a physician.
Now I’m not suggesting that we dupe medical students into treating the flu and giving booster shots in Louisiana’s villages.
What I am suggesting is that we need to jumpstart the conversation on opening a medical school in Lafayette. I wrote a column, “Louisiana Needs A Med School In Lafayette,” about this issue last year (http://tinyurl.com/pp2pxaq). We need to pick up those threads of conversation, and we need to do it without delay.
Want job security? Go to medical school and become a primary care physician. Want to experience frustration? Try getting an appointment with a primary care physician in the near future.
As a nation, we’re simply not graduating enough doctors. The shortage is only going to get worse with the Affordable Care Act expanding access to health care.
By 2025, the physician shortfall in the U.S. will range from 46,100 to 90,400. I didn’t come up with those numbers. The Association of American Medical Colleges did in a report (http://tinyurl.com/nco9qc7) earlier this year.
Do you know what that shortfall means to you? If you’re approaching 50, it means a lot. You need regular checkups to ensure you’re around to enjoy your grandchildren and your golden years. At the same time, too many doctors in Louisiana are preparing for their own retirements. They won’t be around to make sure that cold doesn’t turn into pneumonia or to check your blood pressure.
We have three fine medical schools in Louisiana. Two are in New Orleans. The third is in Shreveport.
|Why We Need A Two-Thirds' Vote On Tax Increases|
The Legislature just raised taxes by $400 million with a simple majority vote. The business community has filed a lawsuit contending that a two-thirds' vote was required. If the business community loses, we should amend Louisiana's constitution to make the two-thirds' vote requirement clear. Here's why.
Flip to Article VII, Section 2 of the Louisiana Constitution, and you'll learn about the hefty hurdle the Legislature is supposed to clear in levying a new tax, increasing an existing tax or repealing an existing tax exemption. Doing any of those things is supposed to require the approval of two-thirds of the House and the Senate. A two-thirds' vote is hard to achieve. It's supposed to be.
Do you know who established that hurdle? You, the voters and taxpayers of Louisiana did, and rightly so.
Tax increases impact families and businesses. They put a pinch on pocketbooks and profit margins. You can't set aside as much for your kids' college education if you're paying more in taxes. You can't expand your business. You can't save as much for retirement.
The $827 million in new taxes and fees passed by the Legislature last spring will affect about every Louisianian, from citizens asking for a copy of their driving record to the largest petrochemical company. Nearly $400 million of that additional revenue was passed by less than a two-thirds' vote. The Legislature says only a majority vote is required in this instance.
All of this was done because state officials refuse to force state government to live within its means. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.
The legislative session wasn't over a month before the business community filed suit, raising some very good arguments. The first lawsuit (there may be more) involves House Concurrent Resolution No. 8. HCR8 suspends an exemption on 1 percent of the sales and use tax on business utilities, which means many businesses now must pay more in sales taxes on their utility bills. In its lawsuit, the Louisiana Chemical Association argues that HCR8 is unconstitutional because it was not passed by two-thirds of the House.
The litigation is in its infancy. The result is uncertain. What's not uncertain is this: The Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1973, which rewrote the state's constitution, visited the two-thirds' vote requirement and opted overwhelmingly against making any changes. They kept the two-thirds' vote requirement to raise taxes that was also in the 1921 constitution.
Consider this excerpt from a memo written by the research staff of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention in 1973: "The greatest advantage of the two-thirds rule is in preventing the legislature from enacting tax laws which could place too much of a tax burden on the taxpayers. Accordingly, the two-thirds rule prevents the legislature from passing tax laws too hastily and without serious considerations." That's why the convention committee notes on the two-thirds' requirement proposal say that a two-thirds' vote is required on "all tax matters" - no exceptions.
Raising taxes should require serious thought. If the Legislature truly needs to do it, there should be broad, deep support, not a simple majority. A supermajority requirement makes for a stronger, more durable law. Generations of Louisiana voters have insisted on a supermajority to raise taxes.
If the courts rule against the Louisiana Chemical Association, it will probably be on a technicality, such as that our constitution is somehow unclear. If that happens, we need to amend our state constitution immediately to provide in simple, clear and unmistakable language what I believe the delegates who drafted our constitution and the voters who approved it intended all along: a two-thirds' vote is required whenever the Legislature votes in any fashion to take more money out of taxpayers' pockets. Period. No exceptions.