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|Treasurer Ron Henson Announces $971 Million in Bond Commission Approvals|
BATON ROUGE, LA - The State Bond Commission approved $971 million for projects statewide and $53 million in interest savings, according to State Treasurer Ron Henson.
"We had several local governments and political subdivisions take advantage of favorable market conditions to refinance debt and save taxpayers money," said Treasurer Henson. "As a result we were able to save taxpayers $53 million."
Among the individual projects approved were:
Acadia Parish: $140,000 in Limited Tax Certificates of Indebtedness for the Consolidated Gravity Drainage District No. 1: for acquiring equipment for constructing, improving, maintaining and operating gravity drainage works.
Avoyelles Parish: $1.19 million in Sales Tax Refunding Bonds for the City of Marksville, resulting in a gross savings of $105,126.
Calcasieu Parish: $12 million in Public Improvement Revenue Bonds for the Town of Iowa for sewer and waste water system improvements.
Grant Parish: $550,000 in Taxable Utilities Revenue Bonds for the Village of Georgetown (DEQ Project) for improvements and additions to the combined water and sewer system.
Louisiana Community Development Authority: $29 million in Refunding Bonds for the City of Lake Charles Public Improvements Projects to refinance debt, saving $866,000 in gross savings.
Louisiana Community Development Authority: $300 million in Revenue Refunding Bonds for the Woman's Hospital Foundation Project, saving $46 million in gross savings and $19 million in net present value savings.
Louisiana Community Development Authority: $4 million in Revenue Bonds for the University of Louisiana Monroe Facilities, Inc. - Brown Stadium Project for the renovation and construction of Brown Stadium and adjacent parking.
Louisiana Public Facilities Authority: $75 million in Revenue Bonds for the Ochsner Clinic Foundation Project to make improvements to medical and related facilities.
New Orleans Aviation Board: $380 million in General Airport Revenue Bonds for the New Orleans Aviation Board for the completion and expansion of the North Terminal Project at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
New Orleans Aviation Board: $85 million in General Airport Revenue Refunding Bonds for the North Terminal Project, resulting in gross savings of $1.973 million and present value savings of $1.1 million.
New Orleans Aviation Board: $70 million in General Airport Revenue Refunding Bonds for the North Terminal Project, resulting in gross savings of $3.5 million and $2.5 million in net present value savings.
Sabine Parish: $1.095 million in Taxable Sewer Revenue Bonds for the Town of Zwolle (DEQ Project) for sewer and water system improvements.
St. Martin Parish: $700,000 in Certificates of Indebtedness for the Village of Parks for constructing, acquiring, renovating and improving a new city hall, including equipment and fixtures.
St. Tammany Parish: $11.15 million in Utility Revenue Bonds for the City of Slidell for utility system improvements.
St. Tammany Parish: $2 million in Taxable Sales Tax Bonds for the Town of Pearl River (DEQ Project) for sewerage and water system improvements.
|Treasury Returns $324,000 to Shreveport Area Residents at Mall St. Vincent |
BATON ROUGE, LA - The Louisiana Department of the Treasury returned more than $324,000 in unclaimed money to thousands of residents this past weekend at Mall St. Vincent in Shreveport.
There were several large claims including $9,800 for a retired couple who had no idea there was money owed to them. Another gentleman claimed $74,000 from an old bank account, and a Shreveport area woman collected $113,000 from a life insurance policy she did not know existed.
"It's a great pleasure to give people money that's rightfully theirs," said State Treasurer Ron Henson. "It doesn't take long, it's an easy process, and it's a free service."
The Treasury holds Unclaimed Property events several times a year to educate the public about the program and return money belonging to Louisiana citizens.
Louisiana residents who weren't able to attend the event this past weekend can search for missing money online 24/7 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 Sells $189 Million in Bonds for Road and State Building Projects|
BATON ROUGE, LA – The State Bond Commission held a special meeting today to hold a competitive sale of $189 million in General Obligation (GO) bonds, the proceeds of which will pay for various roads, buildings and higher education projects, according to State Treasurer Ron Henson.
“Today we received nine bids from Wall Street investment banks, each of which demonstrated a real interest in investing in Louisiana municipal bonds,” said Treasurer Henson. “These bids were favorable even in the light of recent market adjustments and the Street’s recent downgrade in Louisiana’s bond rating.”
All three rating agencies have downgraded the state’s bond rating over the past two years. Louisiana’s budget struggles and supporting revenue problems were factors in the downgrades.
The state’s bond rating is similar to an individual’s credit rating. A better rating makes it less expensive for the state to borrow money to pay for projects.
Louisiana typically holds one or two large GO bond sales a year to fund projects the Legislature approves in the capital outlay budget. The state issues bonds to investors who loan the cash up front to fund the projects. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch had the winning bid today with a true interest cost to the state of 3.445 percent.
Today’s bond sale was the second time the state used a new approach where all bond proceeds are used for capital projects. Previously, a portion of the bond proceeds was used to pay interest during the first year after the bond sale. This had the effect of the state paying interest on top of interest for the next 20 years, a practice the state no longer follows.
|Legislative Session Brings Opportunity for Meaningful Budget Reform|
This year marked the first time I attended the opening of a legislative session as Louisiana’s State Treasurer. As I looked around the House Chamber, I thought two things. First, I do not envy the tough task lawmakers have ahead of them. Secondly, it is not yet clear what direction lawmakers will take to change the state’s tax code or reform the budget process.
Although it’s a daunting undertaking, getting control of the state’s budget has never been more important. State government has been addicted to one-time money and budget gimmicks for years and has had a problem living within its means.
Louisiana’s fascination with quick money fixes is similar to an individual who depends on payday loans or credit card cash advances for recurring expenses. It’s a never-ending cycle of scrounging up money to make payments, higher interest costs, and instability. You may convince yourself that you’ve met your needs in the short-term, but a few months or years in, and you’re headed for serious, long-term financial problems.
Wall Street has taken notice of the state’s precarious budget situation. All three Rating Agencies downgraded our bond rating in less than two years. Standard & Poor’s was the latest agency to do so, downgrading us one notch in March from AA to AA-. Louisiana’s budget struggles and supporting revenue problems were factors in the downgrades.
Louisiana simply cannot continue down this road and ask hardworking families to pay more taxes without first making a good faith effort to live within the constraints of a real, workable budget. We should have learned by now that throwing money at the state’s problems won’t make them go away. It may mask the trouble for a little while, but things always seem to catch up to us in the end.
If state government needs advice on crafting a workable budget, I recommend that they ask a Louisiana family for advice. Most families know how to set aside money for an unexpected roof leak or ER visit. They know the importance of paying their bills on time each month. They also know better than to mortgage their house to pay for the latest video game system for their kids. They’re making common sense decisions on how to spend their income.
There are things the average Louisiana citizen can do to ensure that state government does the same thing. It’s never been easier to stay informed during the legislative process. The Louisiana Legislature operates a terrific website where you can research bills, monitor the budget, and watch committee hearings online at www.legis.la.gov.
Taxpayers can also monitor how much money state government collects by checking the Louisiana Department of Revenue’s net receipts report each month. The Treasury posts this report monthly on our homepage at www.latreasury.com.
There is no doubt that we have a lot of work ahead of us. We know Louisiana has a problem. Wall Street knows Louisiana has a problem. But we also have an opportunity to put pencil to paper and come up with a responsible budget that everyone understands and clearly spells out where tax dollars are going. Like Louisiana families, state government must seek to stay within its fiscal means. Louisiana taxpayers deserve no less.
|We Continue To Have A Spending Problem|
If your car breaks down every Monday, eventually you're going to do one of two things. You're going to get a new mechanic or a new car.
Louisiana's state budget is a lot like a car that breaks down on a regular basis. For some time now, every December or January, a huge shortfall emerges that has to be fixed. If you have a kid on TOPS, then you're already suffering the consequences of the state's inability to manage its money. You just wrote a fat check for your kid's tuition because the state came up short. Merry Christmas to you.
So it's no huge surprise the state has yet another deficit - this time $600 million. It's obvious that we need to make changes, starting with eliminating the hypocrisy from the state budgeting process.
The real question is how in the world does the state not have enough money? Taxes are sky high after the largest tax increase in Louisiana's history. The state's not really paying for TOPS scholarships; parents are. And, in November, state revenue was up 27% over last year.
A couple of things are going on.
First, the state isn't hitting the mark on how much money we can expect to receive each year. Since the state budget is built on those projections, it's costly when we get it wrong.
Basically, we're being too optimistic about how much money the state is going to bring in. We're being too optimistic year after year after year. You'd think we'd get the idea eventually that we're not going to find an oil field underneath the State Capitol every other week - or wherever it is we think we're going to get all this money.
Second, the state spends money like crazy. New cars are purchased. Pay raises are given - not to the worker bees, mind you, but to the top brass. More people are added to Medicaid.
The truth is that the state is simply not living within its means. It is spending more than it takes in and letting our taxpayers handle the consequences.
As state treasurer, I like to look at numbers. Numbers don't lie. So I pulled the budget for the state's Division of Administration. The Division of Administration manages the daily operations of state government, operates as the state's accountant and works directly for the Governor.
The Division's budget was $147 million in 2005. It now stands at $395 million. That's a $248 million, or 169% increase, over 12 years. That's a 14% increase per year on average. Has your income gone up 14% a year each year for the last 12 years? (In case you are wondering, the Department of the Treasury's budget increased only 2.6% annually over the same period of time).
No one's really reducing their spending at the State Capitol except for a dip or two from time to time. Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center tells us that real wages (income with inflation factored in) have largely been flat for 20 years.
Instead, the state's relying on foolish tricks and gimmicks to limp along. The state cuts higher education to the bone but allows health care costs to balloon. The Legislature gives lip service to reducing consulting contracts but refuses to pass a bill that would allow the Legislature to reject them. More often than not, the top brass get pay raises while forcing our rank-and-file state workers to get by with the same paycheck every year.
The Division of Administration, which handles the budget for the Governor, can't even cut its own budget.
We can do better. We must do better. Our taxpayers deserve it. We can't keep driving a car that breaks down every Monday.
|Don't Forget To Search For Unclaimed Property|
As hard as it is to believe, another Christmas is upon us. It's a joyous time, but it's also expensive - especially if you have kids. I'm not sure what a Hatchimal is; I do know it will set Santa back quite a few dollars if your kid wants one under the tree this year.
The holidays cause us to empty our wallets and run up our credit card bills. If you're trying to figure out how to pay the bill collector, run your name through our Unclaimed Property search engine. You have better odds of finding money there than you do of winning the lottery.
Since I became State Treasurer 16 years ago, we've returned $315 million in Unclaimed Property to Louisiana citizens and businesses. We've collected $860 million in Unclaimed Property during that same timeframe.
Unclaimed Property isn't land. It's money. When businesses can't find you, they send the money to us. We hold onto it until you claim it. We get life insurance proceeds, utility deposits, old bank accounts, stocks, dividends, savings bonds and more. The only thing we don't get is your great aunt's jewelry.
I've returned money to celebrities like Archie Manning and John Goodman. I've also returned money to ordinary citizens who really needed the cash. It's the stories of the ordinary citizens that will stay with me.
Years ago, we got in a life insurance policy for a young widow in north Louisiana. Her husband had died, leaving her with small children to rear. She didn't know he'd also left her $500,000 in life insurance proceeds until we tracked her down.
Earlier this year, we returned more than $2 million in Unclaimed Property to a 96-year-old woman in the New Orleans area. That money will be used to ensure that she has around-the-clock care for the rest of her life.
Now I don't have $2 million or even $500,000 for everyone in Louisiana. The average refund is about $900.
Just last week, I sent a check for $12,500 to the Jefferson SPCA. This organization, which supports the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter's two locations, lost track of stocks and dividends following Hurricane Katrina. The money we returned to the SPCA will be used to treat animals for heartworms and other medical issues. The treatment is expensive, and this will give the animals a better chance of being adopted. As an animal lover, I couldn't be more thrilled at that outcome.
Unclaimed Property is a terrific program, and there are no strings attached. It's absolutely free to claim this money. All we care about is whether the money belongs to you.
Visit our website at www.latreasury.com or give us a call at 1-888-925-4127. You might just find enough money to buy a Hatchimal.