Time to begin is now! Tuesday, Mar 24 2015 

Jim Bob

Jim Bob Moffett

Gambit Columnist/Attorney Clancy DuBos offers a suggestion to the leges on how to begin fixing the budget mess that they and Bobby Jindal created.  See his suggestion here.

Clancy is no newcomer to fiscal reform.  In 1987, Gambit was one of the earliest supporters of the efforts of the Louisiana Council for Fiscal Reform (“LCFR”) to rewrite the state’s tax code.

Background

For those not familiar with the LCFR, it was the brainchild of Jim Bob Moffett, Chairman of Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, a Fortune 500 company then located in New Orleans, and the Business Council of New Orleans, a group of about 50 CEOs of the largest companies in Louisiana that continues to support reform efforts in New Orleans and around the state.

At the time, Jim Bob (that’s what everyone calls him) was chairman of the Business Council. Together, they assembled some of the best minds in the state, with the exception of yours truly, to come up with a plan to not only revise the state tax code, but to get it passed.  The Business Council wanted action, not another plan.

We spent a year traveling the state,  selling the plan to the gubernatorial candidates and the leges.  All of the gubernatorial candidates in the 1987 election signed onto the plan, as did most of the leges.

Jim Bob also put all the resources of Freeport at our disposal, which were substantial — beyond anything I had ever imagined.

What happened

Had our newly-elected governor, Buddy Roemer listened and called a special session as the first order of business, we could have easily passed the entire package.   If you know Buddy, listening to advice from others is not one of his strong suits.

Later, we did pass a version of the LCFR Plan through the lege, but it was dependent upon the passage of a constitutional amendment.   By then Roemer had aggravated so many leges and local officials that we lost a close one in the statewide referendum.

Rep. Tim Burns, an attorney and CPA, who at the time was an in-house counsel for Freeport and worked with the LCFR consultants putting the package together, recently explained the failure in more detail here.

In any case, LCFR and the Business Council kept plugging away, passing some parts of the tax code reform effort.  Ironically, the current Inventory Tax Credit that Bobby Jindal wants to substantially reduce was one of the successes.  But for the personal intervention of then–chairman of the Business Council John Laborde, Chairman and CEO of Tidewater, it would never have passed.  Another major accomplishment was the Revenue Estimating Conference.

Finally, in 1996, when it was clear that Governor Mike Foster was not going to embrace our efforts, it was decided to put the LCFR on hold.

Recently, one of the former LCFR consultants reminded me that it was 28 years ago that we began the work of trying to make Louisiana an economically competitive state, with a plan that benefited all of the state – individuals as well as businesses.

The future

The inspiration and knowledge I received from Jim Bob, the members of the Business Council and the LCFR consultants were the basis for the plan I suggested, which Clancy refers to in his column.

What little response I’ve gotten from the leges is that my suggestions are not “politically-doable.”  Nothing is doable if one never tries, and the current leges haven’t.

Regardless, if we are to ever break the Huey P. Long 1930s plan for financing state and local government, it will require political courage.  Otherwise we will continue to wallow in the cellar of the states.

Kudos to Clancy for coming up with a suggestion to begin the process in the 2015 Regular Session.  My only regret is that I didn’t think of it.

All we need now is to find leges with the political courage to do the politically-undoable.

As prominent New Orleans attorney, member of the Business Council and friend, the late George Denègre, once advised: “The alternative is unacceptable.”

C.B.

“King of Subversive Bloggers” – James Gill

What does “autonomy” mean? Monday, Mar 23 2015 

taxes

What “autonomy” means

 

Thursday night, during a forum at LSU on budget cuts Sandra Woodley, head of the University of Louisiana System,  said: “there are students on some campuses who have had to drop out because they didn’t have $100 needed for tuition.”

So what is Woodley and the other college prezs solution to college funding problem?  They say “autonomy.”

Translation: Passing a constitutional amendment to allow the colleges to raise college tuition and fees without approval of the lege.

Yes, you heard that correctly.

Woodley, et al. know that increasing tuition and fees will make it less likely students can afford college (Or it will increase the costs to the taxpayers for TOPS eligible students.), however, their solution is to raise tuition and make college less affordable.

Doubling tuition might put a dent in the problem.  Then what?

Woodley, et al. did nothing for 6 years, but watch Jindal and the leges cut $700 Million from Higher Education.   Now, these same so-called “leaders” want autonomy.

It’s a perfect storm.  Appointees to a board with unfettered ability to increase taxes (No matter what Bobby and Grover say.).  Where’s the accountability?

What’s to prevent state from reducing funding by a like amount?

They need babysitters even if it is only a bunch of leges.

C.B.

“King of Subversive Bloggers” – James Gill
 

The Wisdom of Jim Fannin Friday, Mar 20 2015 

jim-fannin-mad

Fannin’s not scowling; just thinking deeply

On Tuesday, I felt in need of a complete break from reality.

Unfortunately, my independent pharmaceutical salesman is doing a “dime” at Angola.  Then, I thought of something that would alter my reality for free.

Flipping open my laptop computer, I went to the link on the lege website for the live meeting of the House Appropriations Committee.

Inventory tax?

Chairman Jim Fannin was just what the doctor ordered.  After I tuned in, one of his first questions was about the “inventory tax.”  Actually, there is no such tax.  It is merely one of the many tangible items that the local Assessors use to determine the value of business property for local ad valorem property taxes purposes.

Fannin allegedly owns or previously owned a retail business of some sort.  He currently lists as his occupation: “Independent businessman.”  You could have fooled me based on his questions.

Fannin begin quizzing a staff member from the La. Tax Commission (Has oversight over property tax assessments.)

Fannin asked the bewildered staffer what was the inventory tax.  Then he asked why  the tax wasn’t listed separately on his annual property tax bill.  Seriously; this man has been in the lege for 11 years and a business owner!

Skunk catching

Near the end of the meeting Fannin explained the skill of skunk catching and release.  I am NOT making this up.

Apparently, Fannin was trying to make a point about the $1.6 Billion revenue shortfall facing the state.  However, based on  the eye-rolls, I’m not sure he made it.

But I digress.

Fannin explained that if one catches a skunk by the tail, that one has to hold on to it to prevent the skunk from using its built-in defense mechanism.

I’ve run across a few skunks in the woods and at the Capitol.  However, I would not recommend grabbing their tails.

Suddenly, I felt the need to return to reality, such as it is in Louisiana.  Thus, I missed the part about how Fannin explaining how one disposes of the skunk without getting sprayed.

If anyone heard or knows of a technique,  please let me know.  One never knows when such information may come in handy.

Just say “no”

If you ever feel the need to escape the reality of living in Louisiana (Who doesn’t?); don’t turn to drugs.  There’s a better and cheaper way; just tune into the meetings of the House Appropriations Committee and pay close attention to Chairman Fannin.

C.B.

“King of Subversive Bloggers” – James Gill

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