The Louisiana Department of Revenue is not part of the Louisiana Department of Treasury. If you have any questions for the Department of Revenue, please call (855)
307-3893 or visit
|State Introduces LA ABLE Savings Plan |
BATON ROUGE - State Treasurer Ron Henson and the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA), a program under the Board of Regents, today announced the launch of a new 529A saving plan to help individuals with disabilities save money in order to gain more independence, maintain their health and have a better quality of life.
"Louisiana families who are struggling to provide a better life for children with disabilities will now be able to invest money tax free to pay for a variety of qualified disability expenses," said Treasurer Henson.
The Louisiana Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, known as LA ABLE, allows tax -free deposits to an ABLE account, so long as the funds are used on qualified expenses such as education, housing, transportation, employment training, health and wellness - to name a few.
"LA ABLE is Louisiana's new program that provides Louisiana families with the ability to help those with disabilities in paying for necessary expenses," said Senator Dan Claitor. "Individuals who invest in LA ABLE accounts can make tax-exempt deposits as long as funds are expended on approved services."
Family and friends can now adequately save money, without worrying about whether dollars in the 529A account will be counted against them when determining eligibility for federal and state benefits programs. An account owner can save up to $14,000 per year and continue receiving Medicaid and Social Security. If at any time the balance in the account meets or exceeds $100,000, SSI will be suspended. Once the balance decreases, those benefits will be reinstated.
The sponsor of the original legislation, Representative Franklin Foil, said "The LA ABLE accounts are intended to help families save money tax-free to assist with qualified disability expenses, much like the state's START program provides a mechanism to save for college expenses."
The State Treasurer has selected a number of short, intermediate and long-term investment options for the LA ABLE Program, thus allowing individuals to choose the option that best suits their needs.
"The Treasury is working with Vanguard to oversee investments in LA ABLE," said Treasurer Henson. "The program will be structured very similarly to Louisiana's START Saving Program, which was ranked number one in the nation for investment performance."
The LA ABLE 529A Program will be administered by LOSFA on behalf of the Louisiana Tuition Trust Authority (LATTA). LOSFA will be responsible for receiving and disbursing the funds using processes similar to those established for the START 529 college saving plan, which the agency also administers on behalf of the LATTA.
"We are so excited about the launch of LA ABLE and the savings opportunities that will now be available for families with disability related expenses," said LOSFA Executive Director Dr. Sujuan Boutte'. "The implementation of this program would not have been possible without the assistance and collaboration of many dedicated individuals and groups - our legislative leaders, the members of the ABLE Account Authority, Board of Regents Administration and our staff who worked diligently with all parties to make this possible," Boutte' added.
"The newly created LA ABLE program reaches out to serve individuals with critical needs and provides them with a pathway to direct their resources toward solutions," said Commissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Joseph C. Rallo. "At the end of the day," he continued, "it is a marvelous example of creating a public program to meet a very worthwhile private need."
The Arc of Louisiana, an organization that promotes improving services available to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has also anxiously been awaiting the launch of this program. Kelly Monroe, The Arc's Executive Director, said, "The Arc of Louisiana, The Arc of Baton Rouge and People First of Louisiana have been working with Representative Franklin Foil and Senator Dan Claitor on passing the Louisiana ABLE Act since 2013. In July of 2014 it passed with 68 legislators co-authoring the bill. For the first time in history, people with disabilities will be able to work and save for their future without jeopardizing their supports and services which will lead to greater independence. We are very excited to finally see this come together for individuals with disabilities and families."
Sharon Hennessey, Executive Director of People First of Louisiana and Chairperson of the LATTA's ABLE Advisory Board said, "The ABLE Act has made it possible for people with disabilities to save money without jeopardizing their services. Louisiana has recognized the value of this and has established the LA ABLE program. This is a very important step towards independence for people with disabilities in Louisiana."
To learn more and to open a LA ABLE account, visit www.able.osfa.la.gov.
|Treasurer Ron Henson Announces $175 Million in Bond Commission Approvals|
BATON ROUGE, LA - The State Bond Commission approved $175 million for projects statewide and $5.4 million in savings at its June meeting, according to State Treasurer Ron Henson.
"The commission approved a variety of projects for local governments statewide and put the infrastructure in place should it be necessary to take out another short-term budgetary loan next year," said Treasurer Henson. "We are closely monitoring the state's cash flow and will bring any plans back before the commission before making any moves in the market."
Among the individual projects approved were:
Iberia Parish: $22.5 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the Iberia Parish School Board, Parishwide School District, resulting in $513,000 in gross savings.
Lafayette Parish: $75 million in Sales Tax Revenue Bonds for the Lafayette Parish School Board for constructing and acquiring capital improvements including playgrounds, school buildings and related facilities.
LaSalle Parish: $22,000 in Limited Tax Certificates of Indebtedness for the Recreation District No. 22 to equip recreational facilities.
Louisiana Community Development Authority: $2 million in Revenue Bonds for the Livingston Recreation District No. 2 for acquiring, designing, constructing and developing public parks, playgrounds and recreational properties and facilities.
Rapides Parish: $120,000 in Limited Tax Bonds for the Rapides Parish Police Jury, Fire Protection District No. 6 for acquiring, constructing, improving and maintaining fire protection facilities, vehicles and equipment.
Southern University and A&M College: $42 million in Taxable Refunding Bonds for the Board of Supervisors of Southern University and A&M College, resulting in $4.5 million in gross savings to acquire residence hall facilities and Intramural Faculties.
St. Bernard Parish: $4.2 million in Taxable Limited Tax Certificates of Indebtedness for the St. Bernard Parish Council for maintaining and operating fire protection facilities.
St. Tammany Parish: $14.5 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the St. Tammany Parish School Board, Parishwide School District No. 12, resulting in $351,000 in gross savings.
West Baton Rouge Parish: $15 million in Revenue Bonds for the West Baton Rouge Parish, Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission for the construction of a Chambering Yard.
|Louisiana Awards Three-Year Central Banking Agreement to JPMorgan Chase|
BATON ROUGE, LA - State Treasurer Ron Henson announced today that the Louisiana Department of the Treasury has awarded a three-year state central banking services agreement to JPMorgan Chase, with the option to extend for two one-year periods.
"Chase unquestionably had the best proposal in terms of expertise and cost savings," said Treasurer Henson. "The agreement will incorporate a variety of efficiencies that will save the state $1.8 million over a five-year period. We are pleased to partner with Chase to provide the best possible services to public agencies and Louisiana taxpayers."
The State Treasury administers the state's centralized cash management system to receive, disburse, invest and safely keep all monies required by law to be held by the Treasury. This cash management system uses a central depository bank account to receive check deposits, Automated Clearing House (ACH) credits, wire transfer credits, other deposits, and transfers from other bank accounts. Last fiscal year, the Treasury processed 13 million deposit items through the state's central depository bank account.
The Treasury also relies on the central depository bank to provide cash management reporting software in order to earn the best possible return on investments while providing daily liquidity the state requires to meet its obligations. The bank provides a daily report of investment activity that is critical in reconciling the Treasury's investment portfolio.
"JPMorgan Chase considers it an honor to serve the State of Louisiana and its residents through this important and comprehensive banking contract," said John L. Daniel, Executive Director of Government Banking in Baton Rouge. "Louisiana is very important to Chase. We have more than two million retail-banking customers in our state, and we've been the Number One Small Business Administration lender in Louisiana for five straight years."
The Treasury issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the state central banking services agreement on March 10 and made the award May 1. The agreement with Chase will start November 1 and will last until the Year 2022.
|LA ABLE Program Can Help Louisiana Families Save for |
In 2014, a federal law amended Section 529 of the IRS code to allow states to offer tax-free savings accounts to individuals who pay disability-related expenses. The federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act is considered to be one of the most important pieces of federal legislation benefiting individuals in the disabled community since the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Louisiana’s version of the program will be launched this summer and is possible because of state legislation spearheaded by Senator Dan Claitor and Representative Franklin Foil. Louisiana families who are struggling to provide a better life for children with disabilities will now be able to invest money tax free to pay for a variety of qualified disability expenses.
Families who care for loved ones with disabilities can set up tax free savings accounts to pay for health care and other expenses. LA ABLE will also help individuals with disabilities save money in order to gain more independence, maintain their health and have a better quality of life.
LA ABLE will operate in a similar way to the state’s START program that provides a mechanism for saving for college expenses. The program will allow tax-free deposits to an ABLE account as long as funds are used on qualified expenses such as education, housing, transportation, employment training, and health and wellness. The Office of Student Financial Aid will administer the LA ABLE program, and the State Treasury will oversee program investments.
Why is a program like LA ABLE so important to the disabled community? According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, there are an estimated 54 million people in the United States who live with a disability. The CDC reports that health care spending for individuals with disabilities makes up more than a quarter of health care expenses nationwide.
Although health care expenses for someone with a disability can average $11,637 a year nationwide, Louisiana’s costs can range from $12,213 to $18,674 depending on the disability and the individual. When taking into account employment, medical and other costs, families caring for a loved one with a disability can spend much more than that.
LA ABLE can be critical in helping defray the impact of these costs. Families will be able to save up to $14,000 a year tax free while continuing to receive Medicaid and Social Security benefits. This can be essential for families who want to save money without worrying if dollars will be counted against them when determining eligibility for federal and state benefits programs.
Research shows that access to affordable health care and appropriate services improves the quality of life and provides positive outcomes for disabled individuals. With LA ABLE, this will be a reality for many more Louisiana families.
|START Looking at Louisiana’s 529 Plan to Boost College Savings|
When you think of funding for college, the first program that usually comes to mind is most likely TOPS, and understandably so. TOPS has been instrumental in giving Louisiana students access to higher education opportunities. But there’s another program in the state that may not get as much attention as TOPS but is equally successful in helping students and families plan ahead for college expenses.
It’s called the Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust Program (START), and it’s a 529 college savings plan designed to help families contend with the growing costs of educating their children after high school. States operate 529 plans under IRS rules to incentivize saving money for college expenses.
Parents, grandparents and individuals can open a START account with a $10 deposit. College students who want to benefit from the program can even open accounts for themselves in certain circumstances.
The tax advantages of opening a START account are numerous. When you make deposits into the program, the amount is deductible from the income you report on your state tax return up to $2,400 per account each year. If you are married and file a joint tax return, the amount you can deduct from your income increases to $4,800 per account.
Investment earnings on these deposits are tax-deferred while they remain in a START account. When withdrawals are made to pay for qualified expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, and books, they are exempt from state and federal taxes as well. Like an interest bearing checking account, anyone can make a deposit into an account, but the person who opened the account is the one who earns the interest.
One of the greatest benefits of START is what we call “earning enhancements.” This is where the state matches a portion of deposits into a START account by 2 percent to 14 percent based on an account owner’s income and the account category. The highest match of 14 percent is available to account owners with an income of $29,999 or less.
START has gone from 2,966 accounts and $3.9 million in total deposits in the 2000 Calendar Year to 56,204 accounts and more than $718 million in total assets by the close of the 2016 Calendar Year. This past Calendar Year, fixed income investments in the program earned a rate of return of 1.6 percent, and equity investments in START earned 4.58 percent to 18.3 percent depending on the investment option chosen.
START has performed so well over the years that SavingForCollege.com ranks it first of all 529 plans in the nation for 10-year performance. The program was also ranked in the Top 10 for 1-year, 3-year and 5-year performance.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the many benefits of the START Savings program. I encourage you to learn more about the program and boost your college savings goals by visiting www.startsaving.la.gov.
|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.