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 (225) 219-2200 or visit http://revenue.la.gov.
|Treasury and Oakwood Center to Host Unclaimed Property Event|
BATON ROUGE, LA - Louisiana residents have more than $600 million in Unclaimed Property, and New Orleans area residents can see if any of this money belongs to them at an Unclaimed Property Awareness and Refund The Tolls Day on Saturday, March 8, at Oakwood Center in Gretna.
"If anyone is hesitant to go to the mall on Saturday to look for unclaimed money, let me assure you there are no strings attached with the Unclaimed Property Program," said Treasurer Kennedy. "It only takes a few minutes to look up your name or the name of someone you know, and it's a free service."
Employees from the Treasury's Unclaimed Property Division will be stationed at the JC Penney Wing of Oakwood Center, located at 197 Westbank Expressway in Gretna, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Treasury employees will help citizens file Unclaimed Property claims and will assist GeauxPass customers in redeeming unclaimed Crescent City Connection (CCC) toll refunds.
Individuals attending Saturday's event are asked to bring a valid photo ID and Social Security Card to speed up the processing of their claims. Checks for all approved claims will be issued and mailed as quickly as possible after the event. No checks will be issued at the event.
The average Unclaimed Property claim is $900 and 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. The average CCC toll refund is roughly $40 and may include GeauxPass account balances, tag deposits or tolls paid in 2013.
Treasurer Kennedy encourages Louisiana residents who cannot attend Saturday's Unclaimed Property Awareness and Refund the Tolls Day to search for missing money online at www.LATreasury.com or by calling the Treasury's toll-free hotline at 1-888-925-4127 (Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).
Citizens only wanting to claim CCC refunds should visit RefundTheTolls.com, download the one-page claim form, and mail it to State Treasurer John Kennedy ATTN: Refund The Tolls (please list for faster processing) P.O. Box 44154, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-4154.
|Louisiana State Bond Commission Approves $6.95 Million for Local Projects|
BATON ROUGE, LA – At the February 20 meeting of the State Bond Commission, local governments benefited from roughly $6.95 million in funding for public projects, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.
“We signed off on a number of projects to improve necessary public services in five parishes,” said Treasurer Kennedy. “In addition to locally approved projects, we went to market this week to sell $225 million in bonds to repair rural roads in 37 parishes.”
Among the individual projects approved were:
- Catahoula Parish, Catahoula Parish Police Jury, $325,000 in Certificates of Indebtedness, constructing a new roof for the parish courthouse.
- St. Bernard Parish, St. Bernard Parish Council, $2.2 million in Limited Tax Certificates of Indebtedness, for acquiring, constructing and improving fire protection facilities and purchasing fire trucks and other equipment.
- St. Mary Parish, Recreation District No. 3, $425,000 in Certificates of Indebtedness, for improving recreational facilities.
- Natchitoches Parish, City of Natchitoches, $2.2 million in Taxable Revenue Notes, to finance a portion of constructing and furnishing a hotel directly opposite the Natchitoches Event Center.
- Vernon Parish, City of Leesville, $1.8 million in Revenue Bonds, for the construction and renovation of fire stations including furnishing and equipment.
|Online Auction Places $39.6 Million in CDs with La. Banks|
BATON ROUGE, LA - Louisiana banks were able to place bids online for $39.6 million in certificates of deposit (CDs) during a web-based auction held by the Louisiana Department of the Treasury, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.
"The Treasury has moved completely toward online bidding, whether we're auctioning CDs or selling bonds," said Treasurer Kennedy. "Our web auctions and sales are similar to eBay. They help us get the best possible price on CDs while at the same time providing liquidity to Louisiana banks."
Using BidLouisiana.com, the Treasury awards cash to winning banks with the highest bids in exchange for CDs. Each bank's bid consists of the amount of money it needs and the interest rate it is willing to pay. Bids in January's auction ranged from 0.065 percent to 0.07 percent.
"The state relies on CDs as a stable, low-risk investment," said Treasurer Kennedy. "But the program is also beneficial to banks because BidLouisiana makes more cash available for businesses and individual customers. This results in more money moving into our communities through small business and consumer loans."
Over the past 13 years, the state has accepted $2.7 billion in bids using BidLouisiana, resulting in $25.7 million in total earnings for the state. By law, the Treasury may competitively bid up to 50 percent of state funds available for investment in CDs. The next BidLouisiana auction is scheduled for April 15, 2014. For more information, visit www.LATreasury.com.
|Both Right and Left Should Fight Food Stamp Fraud|
Here are three things on which Louisiana liberals and conservatives should be able to agree.
First, Americans are among the most compassionate people in the world. If you lose your job, you get unemployment benefits. If you get sick and can't afford a doctor, you receive free care. If you don't have a place to live, we'll provide one.
Second, this generosity is expensive. It may be free to its recipients, but it's not to the taxpayers who pay for it. There are 126 social programs for low-income Americans (72 of which provide cash or in-kind benefits), and that's just by the federal government. State and local governments have hundreds more. The federal government alone has spent $20.7 trillion in current dollars since 1964 on the war on poverty, and it currently spends $411 billion a year (12% of its budget) on programs for the poor, such as TANF, Section 8 vouchers, public housing, Medicaid, WIC, EITC, LIHEAP and TEFAP. We do it because Americans care. It's what separates us from other countries that allow their less fortunate neighbors to suffer or die.
Third, because America's social programs are so expensive, and require capital (taxpayer money) that could otherwise be spent on education, infrastructure, defense and research, or not taken from taxpayers in the first place, anyone who willfully lies, cheats or steals to get benefits from a social program for which he does not qualify should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. No exceptions. To do otherwise impugns the integrity of America's social net, undermines the magnanimity that funds it, unfairly taints the people who need the safety net and play by its rules, and causes taxpayers to lose confidence in programs that help the poor.
Unfortunately, government frequently breaks this simple rule. Take food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP), for example. SNAP provides money, through a debit card, to low-income citizens to buy food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers SNAP, but the benefits are distributed by the states, in Louisiana's case the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). In 2008 there were 650,000 Louisianians on food stamps; today there are 900,000 (out of 4.5 million people). The program cost $836 million in 2008; today it costs $1.5 billion.
In May of 2013, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor audited DCFS's administration of the food stamp program in Louisiana. Here's what he found:
- In 2012, DCFS gave $750,000 in food stamps to 322 people who made more than $50,000 a year.
- In 2011 and 2012, DCFS gave $1.1 million in food stamps to 1761 people who are in jail.
- In 2011 and 2012, DCFS gave $107,864 in food stamps to 84 convicted and therefore ineligible drug felons.
- From March 2010 to March 2011, DCFS gave food stamps to 1573 people who were double-dipping by receiving food stamps in Louisiana and another state.
- In 2012, DCFS gave food stamps to 3060 people who spent most of the money ($2.06 million) in other states, suggesting they don't live in Louisiana.
What happened to these food stamp violators? Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
This is inexcusable. It is yet one more reason why middle class taxpayers--the people who pull the wagon--are so frustrated. They see people at the top getting undeserved bailouts, people at the bottom getting unearned handouts and themselves getting the bill.
Tell your public officials to enforce the food stamp laws. Those who lie, cheat or steal to get benefits should be prosecuted. This is a principle on which liberals and conservatives should be able to agree.
|A Plan to Fund Higher Education|
Louisiana's colleges and universities need money. There's a way to help them without raising taxes or tuition: reduce spending on state government's consulting contracts by 10% and dedicate the $528 million saved to higher education.
When Mike Foster was governor, the state's budget was $12 billion. It was $19 billion under Governor Blanco. Today it's $25.3 billion. Over this time, Louisiana's population has grown little and inflation has been low. This notwithstanding, funding for Louisiana post-secondary education has been cut to the bone.
Louisiana spent $1.6 billion from its general fund on higher education in 2008. We had finally reached the southern average for the first time in 25 years. This year's general fund spending for higher ed is $525 million-a breathtaking 67% reduction. Even after taking into account tuition and fee increases on the backs of students and parents, total funding on higher ed is down $353 million. State funding for higher education in Louisiana is down 17.6% this fiscal year alone (3/4s of the states have raised higher ed funding this year), the most dramatic reduction in America, according to the American Association of Colleges and Universities. Frankly, I don't know how our schools keep the lights on.
At the same time, the state is spending more than ever on consultants, many of whom are out-of-state, which means the dollars don't even stay here. According to the Legislative Auditor, Louisiana has 19,000 consulting contracts spread throughout state government. Governor Jindal's former top financial advisor testified before the Streamlining Government Commission that 14,000 of those consulting contracts are for $50,000 or more. For 2005 to 2010, the Louisiana Department of Education alone spent $615 million on 5,499 consultants. In 2012, total state spending on professional, personal and consulting contracts was $5.28 billion.
Why do we need to spend $94,000 in taxpayer money on a California consultant to "assist students to learn valuable social skills through organized play on their recess and lunch periods" (Contract #672113)? Why spend $874,930 on a consultant to "provide ... assistance to disadvantaged business enterprise companies doing business with DOTD" (Contract #658942)? Does DHH really need to pay someone $19,500 to "coordinate two Golden Glove Boxing tournaments" (Contract #710616)? Does the Department of Education need to spend $250,000 in consulting fees to "provide valid and reliable data to parents to support informed school choice decisions" (Contract #674139)? Why would any reasonable public official spend $57,100 to "inform and educate the Hispanic community ... of seatbelt usage" (Contract #708691), or give precious taxpayer dollars to the Hop 2 It Music Co., the Smile and Happiness Foundation or theLight City Church under any circumstances, but particularly when our colleges and universities and the kids they teach are falling behind the rest of America in a knowledge-based global economy?
Some think the way to help higher education is to raise tuition-again. They are wrong. Louisiana has a lower percentage of college graduates than any state except West Virginia. We will not bridge this talent gap and catch up by raising (even more) the cost of a degree. Besides, since 1985, college tuition in America is up 500%--more than health care or gas or the cost of a home.
There's a better way.
In 2012, by a vote of 94-0, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill (HB 327) by Rep. Dee Richard that would have directed every agency in state government to reduce its spending on consulting contracts by 10%. The Senate Finance Committee killed the bill unanimously. In 2013, the Louisiana House passed the same bill (now HB 73) by a vote of 86-0. The Senate Finance Committee once more defeated the bill on a 4-4 vote.
HB 73 needs to be reintroduced and passed. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office, it would save $528 million annually, which should be dedicated specifically in the legislation to higher education. That's not enough, but it's a start.
There will be opposition. Some will argue the bill will harm the state's privatization efforts. Not so. HB 73 is about government waste, not whether a vital state service can be provided more efficiently by the private sector. Some will accuse the legislature of micromanaging. Not so. HB 73 does not specify which contracts should be eliminated-that's up to the agencies-or whether any should be eliminated at all. An agency can meet its goal of reducing consultant spending by keeping all its contracts while negotiating lower prices. Others will argue that every one of the state's consulting contracts is necessary. I don't believe it, and I don't think taxpayers do either. Besides, some of our agency heads make as much as $400,000 a year. If they can't implement the reduction, I bet we can find someone who can. Finally, the argument will be made that consulting contracts are funded with federal dollars. Some are; many aren't. The answer is to reduce or eliminate the contracts using state money and ask the feds to give us permission to redirect the federal money for the nonsensical contracts to higher ed. We shouldn't be wasting American taxpayer dollars on frivolous, wasteful consulting contracts anyway.
The formula for a better Louisiana is simple: real jobs for adults and a good education for our children. We can't have one without the other.
This plan will work. The carnage in higher education must end.
|If Not Higher Ed, Use the Surplus for I-49|
Louisiana likely will have a surplus from last fiscal year. The state constitution prohibits us from using it for operating expenses like higher education, but we can spend it on infrastructure. We should use it for I-49 South. Here's why.
There's good news and bad news about I-49. The good news is the state has secured the funding for I-49 North, the 40 miles from Shreveport to the Arkansas line, and the project will be completed soon. The bad news is we don't have the money yet to complete I-49 South.
The I-49 South project is basically an upgrade of US Hwy 90 to interstate standards. US 90 runs 140 miles from Lafayette to the Westbank Expressway in New Orleans, touching nine parishes containing 36 percent of Louisiana's population. Eighty percent of the nation's offshore oil and gas supply, almost 30 percent of the country's energy consumption, comes from or through Louisiana. US 90, known as "America's Energy Corridor," makes this possible. Unfortunately, US 90 has been operating over capacity for years, and by 2030 the deterioration will cause it to fail completely.
Completion of I-49 North and South will ensure that Louisiana can continue to meet America's energy needs, create an international north-south trade corridor from the Louisiana Gulf Coast to Canada, keep our ports from losing business to Houston, improve hurricane evacuation, relieve traffic congestion, save lives and create over 100,000 jobs.
It will cost between $2 billion and $5 billion to complete I-49 South, depending upon what the federal government allows us to do. Senator Bret Allain of Franklin, former Senator Mike Michot of Lafayette and former DOTD Secretary Dr. Kam Movassaghi, along with other public officials, business owners and economic development officials, have formed the I-49 South Coalition, and are working diligently on long-term financing options.
In the meantime, the state has a rare opportunity to do something about I-49 South right now.
It appears we will have an over $100 million surplus from last fiscal year, which ended June 30, as a result of a late, unanticipated increase in revenue. I would like to spend this money on higher education, but we can't, because this surplus is considered "non-recurring" and under our state constitution can only be spent on a narrow list of things. One of those things is Capital Outlay-like I-49 South.
If I-49 South really is as important as we say, then all of or a substantial portion of this one-time budget surplus should be spent on it.
This will be controversial. Louisiana has a $10 billion infrastructure backlog, including hundreds of needed road projects spread throughout the state. We don't have money for them all. That means public officials should do what families and businesses do every day-prioritize. Rather than doing the politically expedient thing of spreading taxpayer money around as many projects as we can, and watering down the soup, we should decide which Capital Outlay projects are the most important and fund those first.
Now that I-49 North is practically done, I-49 South should be at the top of that list of priorities.
Spend the surplus on I-49 South. Let's put our money where our mouth is. Louisiana won't regret it.