Think balancing Louisiana’s $23B state budget is easy? Give it a try!

The Louisiana Legislature returns to session April 10, with the primary objective of crafting a balanced state budget for the coming year and goal of providing more long-term stability.

Task forces, committees and various interest groups have held hearings and offered input. Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to unveil his legislative agenda next week.

In the meantime, Greater New Orleans Inc., the regional chamber body, has unveiled a new website to let anybody develop their own taxing and spending priorities…


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Edwards fighting uphill battle

Evidence that conservative Republicans in the Louisiana House are determined to thwart Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards at every turn became clear with two recent appointments by Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia. Barras named two of the most anti-tax representatives to the Ways and Means Committee that decides the fate of all tax bills.

Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, but it is in the committees where most proposed bills are killed. The Ways and Means Committee has 21 members, 13 Republicans and 8 Democrats. Chairman Neil Abramson, a New Orleans Democrat, has been pretty much allied with the GOP members since Edwards took office.

Reps. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, and Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, are the new committee members. Neither lawmaker supports budget and tax reform, the main goal of the upcoming fiscal. Never mind that the best financial brains in the state think it is the only way to straighten out the state’s failing money systems…


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Gov. John Bel Edwards taps veteran north Louisiana trooper as State Police interim leader

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday appointed a veteran trooper from north Louisiana to lead the State Police on an interim basis, tapping a career lawman considered an outsider from the agency’s beleaguered headquarters.

Maj. Kevin Reeves, a nearly 27-year veteran of the agency, takes the helm following the retirement of Col. Mike Edmonson, the longtime superintendent who announced last week that he would step down amid a series of investigations into questionable overtime charges and out-of-state travel by high-ranking troopers.

Reeves, 48, of Jonesboro, oversees the agency’s patrols in 29 central and northern Louisiana parishes, a massive jurisdiction that others said equipped him with exceptional organizational skills…


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Alford: Democrats try to find their footing in deeply red Louisiana

Democrats in Louisiana don’t have much to celebrate, but there are a few silver linings, says Jeremy Alford in his latest column.

He notes the governor is a Democrat, as is Congressman Cedric Richmond, who recently took over a key leadership post in Washington, D.C. In addition, two party officials have also been installed in national positions of influence.

“These are big wins for a party that was reading its own obituary in Bayou State newspapers—over and over—just a few years ago,” Alford writes. “But, if political realities are to be embraced, these big wins don’t exactly equate to a new day in Louisiana for Democrats. The odds are still against them, and with the Republicans, when it comes to the Legislature and statewide elections”…


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The next top trooper

The retirement of Col. Mike Edmonson, effective Friday, reverberated throughout Louisiana’s political community last week — no matter how expected the announcement was. Now attention and speculation turns to who will become the next superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, a position that brings with it an incredible amount of political leverage.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is said to be on the hunt for an interim superintendent at the moment. Many are urging him to select an interim who will not be interested in pursuing the top job on a permanent basis, which seems to be his preference as well at the moment. In fact, there are a lot of folks whispering in the governor’s ear and he has no shortage of suggestions to review.

There are some restrictions, though, beginning with a state law that prohibits the governor from conducting an external search: Edmonson’s successor, by law, has to come from within State Police and they must be a graduate of the agency’s training academy…


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Why is Gov. John Bel Edwards pushing this new, specific method of taxing Louisiana businesses?

Gov. John Bel Edwards settled on proposing to replace the state’s corporate tax on profits with a corporate tax on sales in part because voters in November rejected a different overhaul of the way Louisiana taxes businesses, the state’s revenue secretary said in an interview Monday.

The plan on the November ballot, supported by only 44 percent of voters, would have eliminated a major corporate tax break in exchange for lowering the state’s corporate income tax rate.

The result signaled to Edwards that voters and lawmakers would have little interest in approving a similar measure this year, or a similarly conceived plan that would scrap individual income tax breaks in exchange for a lower individual income tax rate…


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State law precludes national search for Louisiana’s next State Police superintendent

In announcing his retirement as superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, Col. Mike Edmonson said last week that he hoped to restore a sense of normalcy to an agency riven by controversy in recent weeks.

Many rank-and-file troopers embraced Edmonson’s departure as a chance for a new beginning; they called for fresh blood to unite an organization given to factions and cliques.

And in the wake of a scandal involving questionable overtime pay and out-of-state travel, some experts said the State Police might benefit from an outsider’s perspective as the agency seeks to boost morale and reform its often parochial culture…


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Lawmaker’s idea to avoid mid-year cuts — Don’t budget all expected revenue — has Gov. John Bel Edwards’ backing

For years, the Louisiana Legislature has authorized spending more money than the state winds up taking in.

The result: dreaded midyear budget cuts, year after year.

State Sen. Jim Fannin believes he has a solution, and it has the support of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Fannin’s measure would force legislators to budget less than the full amount of revenue projected to come in each year…


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Analysis: Medicaid changes could have sweeping impact in La.

That redesign is estimated to come with deep spending cuts. The implications would be major for Louisiana, where more than one-third of residents get health services through the Medicaid program, financed jointly by the state and federal government.

That’s not just the 400,000 people, largely working poor, who signed up for Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Medicaid expansion program created under former President Barack Obama’s federal health law.

Another 1.2 million low-income people in Louisiana are enrolled in Medicaid that existed before the Affordable Care Act: pregnant women, children, elderly residents and people with disabilities who rely on that program for preventive care, cancer screenings, birthing services, nursing home care, hospice services and home-based services that keep people from living in institutions…


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Gov. John Bel Edwards wants big changes in how Louisiana businesses, individuals taxed; here’s what we know

Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to dramatically revamp Louisiana’s tax system when the Legislature meets next month by replacing the current corporate tax on income with a corporate tax on sales, according to administration officials.

Many economists applaud the proposal, saying it would level the playing field by eliminating most corporate tax breaks and exemptions that cause businesses to pay different tax rates. Some companies take advantage of so many tax loopholes that state government winds up sending them a check.

“It’s a much more fair approach,” state Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, who has studied the proposal, said in an interview. “It’s extremely simple. Your corporate tax return could be done on a simple sheet of paper”…


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