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9/15/2016
State Bond Commission Approves $829 Million for Local Projects

BATON ROUGE, LA - The State Bond Commission approved $829 million for projects statewide and approved more than $67 million in interest savings at its September 15 meeting, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.

"We approved financing that will ensure public schools are repaired in East Feliciana Parish. New homes will be built in Ville Platte, Baton Rouge and Carencro," said Treasurer Kennedy. "Improvements will be made to the waterworks system in Avoyelles Parish. These are all important projects. "

Among the individual projects approved were:

  • Avoyelles Parish, $230,000 in Water Revenue Bonds for the Southwest Avoyelles Waterworks District: for acquiring and constructing improvements to the waterworks system, including equipment and fixtures.
  • Bienville Parish, $8.25 million in General Obligation Refunding Bonds for the Bienville Parish Police Jury: saving taxpayers $397,602.
  • Caddo Parish, $25 million in Refunding Bonds for the city of Shreveport: saving taxpayers $3,120,863.
  • Caddo Parish, $4.5 million in Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Housing Corporation's Olive Grove Senior Apartments Project: for acquisition, construction, and equipping of a 50 unit multifamily housing facility in Shreveport, Caddo Parish.
  • Concordia Parish, $5.8 million in Sales Tax Refunding Bonds for the Concordia Parish Police Jury, Sales Tax District No. 1: saving taxpayers $1,041,971.
  • DeSoto Parish, $6.5 million in Limited Tax Revenue Refunding Bonds for the DeSoto Parish School Board: saving taxpayers $262,423.
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, $185 million in Auxiliary Revenue Refunding Bonds for the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College: saving taxpayers $19,160,343.
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, $19 million in Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Housing Corporation's Meadows at Nicholson, LP Project: for acquisition, construction and equipping of a 204 unit multifamily housing facility located in Baton Rouge.
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, $26 million in Healthcare Facilities Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Community Development Authority's Provident Group - Village at Americana LLC: for acquiring, constructing, furnishing and equipping an assisted living facility to be located in Zachary, East Baton Rouge Parish and (2) funding a reserve fund, if necessary.
  • East Feliciana Parish, $4 million in Taxable Limited Tax Revenue Bonds for the East Feliciana Parish School Board: for rehabilitating, repairing and equipping public school facilities.
  • Evangeline Parish, $4.5 million in Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Housing Corporation's Gabriel Villa Apartments Project: for the acquisition, construction and equipping of a 64 unit multifamily apartment facility located in Ville Platte, Evangeline Parish.
  • Franklin Parish, $5.23 million in Sales Tax Bonds for the Franklin Parish School Board: for constructing, improving and/or renovating schools and school related facilities.
  • Franklin Parish, $2.41 million in Limited Tax Revenue Bonds for the Franklin Parish School Board: for constructing, acquiring, renovating, improving, and/or repairing schools and school related facilities and equipment.
  • Franklin Parish, $8.51 million in Limited Tax Revenue Bonds for the Franklin Parish School Board, School District: for renovating, improving, repairing, and supporting schools and school related facilities and equipment.
  • Iberia Parish, $5 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the Iberia Parish School Board, Parishwide School District: saving taxpayers $262,643.
  • Lafayette Parish, $4 million in Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds for the Louisiana Housing Corporation's Beau Sejour Apartments Project: for acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, and equipping of a 105 unit multifamily housing complex located in Carencro, Lafayette Parish.
  • Orleans Parish, $450 million in Revenue and Refunding Bonds for the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority's Tulane University of Louisiana Project: saving $41,260,084.
  • Ouachita Parish, $17.5 million in Airport Revenue Refunding Bonds for the Louisiana Community Development Authority's Monroe Regional Airport Terminal Project: saving taxpayers $1,005,129.
  • Rapides Parish, $250,000 in Limited Tax Certificates of Indebtedness for the Rapides Parish Police Jury, Fire Protection District No. 7: saving taxpayers $789.
  • St. John the Baptist Parish, $12.3 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board, School District No. 1: saving taxpayers $382,748.
  • St. Tammany Parish, $34 million in Hospital Revenue Bonds for Hospital Service District No. 1: for (1) purchase of building, land, capital equipment and improvements including but not limited to renovation and expansion of pharmacy, laboratory, central sterile areas, surgery, and parking garages and/or (2) making capital expenditures throughout the properties of St. Tammany Parish Hospital currently owned or to be purchased and (3) funding a reserve fund, if required.
  • Washington Parish, $1.3 million in Water Revenue Refunding Bonds for the Bogue Lusa Waterworks District: saving taxpayers $158,796.

 

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.
9/14/2016
Treasury and Mall of Louisiana To Host Unclaimed Property Event

BATON ROUGE, LA. - Victims of the August flooding - along with other Baton Rouge area residents - can search for nearly $750 million in Unclaimed Property this Saturday at the Mall of Louisiana, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.

"We just returned thousands of dollars to a flood victim who was stranded at a shelter after losing her home. She's now in a more permanent home," said Treasurer Kennedy. "We know more flood victims have Unclaimed Property. They just don't know it yet. That's why they need to come by and search our database."

Employees from the Treasury's Unclaimed Property Division will be stationed by the Dillard's entrance on the first floor inside the Mall of Louisiana, located at 6401 Bluebonnet Blvd. in Baton Rouge, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Treasury employees will help citizens file Unclaimed Property claims. There will be a separate line for flood victims.

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.).
9/12/2016
State Revenue Collections Continue To Climb

 

BATON ROUGE, La. - The August 2016 Net Receipts Report shows that total state revenue thus far for 2016-2017 was $1.376 billion, a 29% increase compared to that time last year.


Sales tax collections dipped compared to July but improved compared to this time last year. Individual income tax collections increased. Miscellaneous taxes - which include alcohol, gift and tobacco taxes - showed steady growth. 

 

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 2016-2017 to-date are $645 million, for an increase of $176 million or 38% compared to last year. General sales tax cash receipts this time last year were $469 million, which was $4 million more than the prior year.

Individual income tax cash receipts for FY 2016-2017 to-date are $507 million, which exactly match collections last year. Individual income tax cash receipts this time last year were $507 million, which was $68 million more than the prior year.

General severance tax cash receipts for FY 2016-2017 to-date are $75 million, for a decrease of $26 million or 26% compared to last year. General severance tax cash receipts this time last year were $101 million, which was $56 million less than the prior year.

Corporation and franchise tax cash receipts for FY 2016-2017 to-date are a negative $23 million, for an increase of $130 million or 85% compared to last year. Corporation and franchise tax cash receipts this time last year were a negative $153 million, which was $112 million less than the prior year.

Gasoline and special fuels tax cash receipts for FY 2016-2017 to-date are $106 million, for an increase of $2 million or 2% compared to last year. Gasoline and special fuels tax cash receipts this time last year were $104 million, which was $3 million more than the prior year.

Miscellaneous taxes cash receipts for FY 2016-2017 to-date are $66 million, for an increase of $31 million or 89% compared to last year. Miscellaneous taxes cash receipts this time last year were $35 million, which was $3 million less than the prior year.

To view the report in its entirety, visit www.latreasury.com and click "Net Receipts Statement for the Month of August 2016
 

 

 

 Opinion Columns

9/16/2016
Flood Victims Need To Know About This Income Tax Deduction

By now, you know the sobering statistics of the August flooding. You might even factor into those statistics because you lack flood insurance.

Not even half of the homes in areas at a high risk for flooding had flood insurance. In St. Helena Parish, not even one percent of homes and businesses had flood insurance.

FEMA can grant up to $33,000 in assistance, but you're going to get far less than that. The average FEMA assistance for Superstorm Sandy was less than $8,000.

So here's your predicament: You have cabinets to replace. You have sheetrock to replace. You have floors to replace. You have couches, beds and tables to replace. Even the washer and dryer couldn't be saved. You don't have flood insurance. You only have a little bit of FEMA assistance.

As your State Treasurer, I want to impart two things to you.

First, we will rebuild. Our neighborhoods will return. Our businesses will reopen.

Second, you can deduct your unreimbursed casualty losses on your tax return or amended tax return.

This is a complicated deduction (you can locate the information sheet on it at https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc515.html). However, it's worth considering, especially if you didn't have flood insurance. And many, many people didn't have flood insurance.

The deduction for casualty losses in federally declared disaster areas is designed to help people who have been impacted by a sudden, unexpected or unusual event. It applies to uninsured or unreimbursed losses on homes, household items and vehicles. So keep those photographs of everything the floodwaters touched. They'll come in handy when it's time to do your taxes.

You can deduct a casualty loss in the year in which it occurred or in the year immediately preceding the tax year in which the disaster occurred. In other words, you can claim it on this year's tax return or you can amend last year's return in order to get a quicker refund. You have to claim it as an itemized deduction.

It's important to remember that a casualty loss isn't for normal wear and tear. The chair that floated from the den into the living room probably applies if you didn't have flood insurance for the contents of your home. The chair that your kids redecorated with splashes of spaghetti sauce and grape juice doesn't apply.

This deduction isn't just for homeowners. Business owners and rental property owners also can take it.

To see if you qualify, take the time to look at the Internal Revenue Service's workbook. It's Publication 547. The workbook includes examples to help you. Visit https://www.irs.gov/publications/p547.

Tax relief is one more avenue of assistance available to you. It might be an avenue that you didn't even know existed.

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.
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