Jindal giveth and taketh away Monday, Nov 17 2014 

jindal-snake-oil

The great delusionist!

What he giveth

In late January, Bobby Jindal released his proposed state Operating Budget for the current fiscal year (FY15). Much was made about Jindal graciously providing more funding to Higher Education after reducing funding by over $700 Million.

It was announced that $142 million would be added for Higher Education in the current (FY15) budget.

–Upon closer examination we learned that $88 Million of the extra funding was from tuition hikes (Otherwise known as a tax on college students.) on most of the college campuses.  Those campuses that didn’t meet the LA GRAD Act qualifications for increasing tuition would receive no extra money via tuition.  In other words, due to inflation, they likely will have to cut their budgets.

–Then we learned that $40 Million of the extra money (from sources to be found by the leges) was dedicated for specific types of job training.  The allocation of these funds was approved Friday.

–Thus, the net increase in state funds for general Higher Education operations was approximately $14 Million.

There was great rejoicing by the heads of the colleges and much praise for Jindal. Unsaid was that it wasn’t praise as much as it was thankful prayers for Jindal not proposing further cuts.

What he taketh away

Not long after the lege adjourned this summer amongst much self-congratulation on what a fine job they did with the budget, reality began to set in:

– Thanks to poor decision-making (bad gamble) by Jindal’s Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and a lack of oversight by the leges it was announced there would be a drastic reduction in healthcare insurance benefits for active and retired state employees (including those on college campuses) plus an increase in premiums paid by the workers and their employers/taxpayers.

After a huge outcry from the active and retired state employees plus public school teachers directed at the leges, the leges summoned the courage to hold a meeting about the insurance program.

Now, Nichols has reconsidered her decision.   She announced that the healthcare insurance benefits will remain the same, but there will a 11% premium increase on the employee/retiree portion. Add to that millions more that will be paid by the employers/taxpayers which includes the Higher Education institutions and will it further reduce the net $14 Million appropriated to them.

– A week or so ago, the LA Department of Health and Hospitals announced that they are already $171 million over budget in the Medicaid program with eight months to go in the current fiscal year.

– On Friday, the State Revenue Estimating Conference determined that the leges had appropriated $171 Million more than would be generated in revenues. Nichols, unable to again turn water into wine (She magically turned a deficit in the FY14 Budget into a surplus.), admitted that cuts would have to be made.

Nichols says she will have a plan for cutting the budget as early as this Friday. If the history of the Jindal Administration is any judge, the areas of the budget that will be hit the hardest by cuts will be – you guessed it — Healthcare and Higher Education.

Action needed

As Ernest Hemingway said: “Never mistake motion for action.”

Jindal’s plan is to use more smoke, mirrors and accounting gimmicks to merely limp by for another 18 months.

It’s past time for the leges to break from Jindal’s leash, stop going through the motions and start doing something. Unless they are as delusional as Jindal, they will have to deal with reality either now or, for those unfortunate to be reelected, in 18 months.

My suggestion is to start now; delay will only cause require more reductions in services and much higher taxes.  Anyone delusional enough to believe that the Jindal fiscal mess can be resolved without both, should consider joining the Bobby for POTUS campaign team.

C.B.

“King of Subversive Bloggers” – James Gill

Overseers need oversight Friday, Nov 14 2014 

credit-card-control-cut-scissors

Cut ‘em up!

WVUE-TV’s Investigative Reporter Lee Zurik recently uncovered more abuse of our tax dollars by a NGO, mostly via taxpayer-funded credit cards.  ( See story here.)

Among numerous rip-offs of our tax dollars by Alternatives Living, Inc., it owes the Feds at least $1.3 Million in payroll taxes and penalties.

The group’s administrators told Zurik that “their expertise is in taking care of the homeless and disabled, and running a business was new to them.” (Emphasis mine.)  However, the agency has been operating since 1993.

The group’s alleged mission is to take care of the physically and mentally challenged disabled and homeless.

Apparently, some of the homeless are being housed in the New Orleans Arena, otherwise, how one could explain spending $23,299.66 on Hornets (now Pelicans) tickets. Some must be housed on luxury cruise ships on which over $4,000 was spent.

At least these homeless and handicapped folks are being taken places in style because the agency heads leased a Mercedes Benz automobile for their use.

While this particular NGO is funded via Federal Funds rather state funds, it is overseen by the LA Department of Health and Hospitals.

Recently, several auditors at DHH pleaded guilty to misuse of taxpayer-funded credit cards. The job of these auditors was to prevent the exact type of fraud for which they convicted.

Despite these latest revelations involving taxpayer-funded credit cards, we’ve heard nothing from Team Jindal about any effort to address this sieve of our tax dollars.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols says that the state has enough oversight over OGB which is practically in bankruptcy.  My question is: Who oversees, the overseers?

Kudos to Zurik for exposing yet another taxpayer rip-off.

It’s long past time for the lege to take a hard look at the use and misuse of taxpayer-funded credit cards and do something to limit their use.

C.B.

“King of Subversive Bloggers” – James Gill

Is it oversight or control? Thursday, Nov 13 2014 

hear no evil see no evil speak no evil

OGB oversight groups meeting

Public Affairs Research Council’s (“PAR”) is calling for more oversight of the Office of Group Benefits which provides healthcare insurance for state employees, teachers and their retirees. (See Report here.)

In response, Commissioner of Administration said there is already sufficient oversight of Groups Benefits operations. She said the legislature, its auditor and fiscal office plus a Group Benefits advisory board all have oversight roles. The Advocate, November 11, 2014.

Let’s face it, in effect; all of those groups are either directly or indirectly under the influence of the governor. That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

Even if we were naive enough to believe that these oversight groups were truly independent and looking out for the best interests of the public employees, it doesn’t say much about their competence.

In merely two years under “sufficient oversight, OGB cut healthcare premiums by approximately 9%.  Now, in order to maintain the same level of benefits will require approximately a 11% increase in premiums. That’s a 20% swing.

Missing the call by 20%, unless one is a television weatherman, doesn’t sound like “sufficient” or confident oversight to me.

What’s the issue?

It’s difficult to comprehend one responsible for public funds rejecting more oversight of OGB especially in light of the recent debacle.

Perhaps Nichols isn’t really concerned oversight, but is really afraid of losing absolute control over a substantial sum of public money.

C.B.

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