Fiscal reform proposals to surface
The task force charged with making tax and budget recommendations for next year’s regular session should have its report ready for legislative leaders by the end of the month.
The original deadline for the Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy was Sept. 1, as detailed in a resolution adopted by lawmakers earlier this year.
But members sought more time from the Legislature after the recent flooding in south Louisiana and requested a new deadline of Sept. 30.
One issue that has taken a backseat to the splashier topics of taxes and the budget is unfunded accrued liability, referred to as the UAL.
In simple terms, it’s the debt associated with the state’s retirement systems. More to the point, it’s the difference in the amount of assets the systems have and the amount of money the government has promised to pay out to its employees in the future.
Paul T. Richmond, the actuary for the Legislative Auditor, recently told the task force that Louisiana’s UAL is $18 million.
That has some task force members wondering whether the UAL should be treated as a separate budget item during legislative sessions.
Richmond told the task force that the problem with the retirement systems is not the overall design of their plans, but rather that UALs have been allowed to accumulate in the past due to inaction by state officials.
Retirement systems are able to gain revenue through investments, but that’s an unlikely avenue to help address the UAL.
The task force was advised that it would be better to have larger contributions directed to the systems with a gradual decline thereafter, as opposed to smaller contributions followed by a pattern of increases.
Who ends up paying for the higher contributions, and how the Legislature would react to such a proposal, are just a few of the unknowns that will likely be addressed in the task force’s report and in next year’s fiscal reform session.
A policy web for flooded schools
While state tax collections will eventually spike a bit due to last month’s flooding and the subsequent rebuilding efforts, for the areas that were significantly hit there will actually be a dip in local sales taxes as well because of a lack of available commerce.
So in places like Livingston Parish, not only will the school boards have to spend money restoring schools, they will also get less tax revenue than anticipated.
Lawmakers and lobbyists agree that there may be an opportunity for class-size waivers, but the total number of educational days required cannot be changed.
That said, there could be a major policy debate brewing over easing up on the accountability system.
Here’s the key question: Should displaced students and teachers be taking the same standardized tests as others around the state who have experienced no disruptions?
Next year’s legislative session could play host to answer that question.
In terms of funding, the floods came at a terrible time. The 2016-17 budget reduced public schools by $24 million from last year.
Public school boosters have been quick to point to the fact that vouchers were increased by 14 percent. It’s a signal that there could certainly be competition for recovery dollars if privately-run charter schools from Baton Rouge and Lafayette decide to seek tax money for flood-related expenses.
Acadians super PAC emerges
Consultant Bill Skelly is back with another super PAC this cycle after running one last year to support Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle’s bid for governor.
He is sticking with Angelle, though, and has formed the Love For Louisiana PAC in the 3rd Congressional District race.
In an interview Skelly laughingly said the name had nothing to do with one of Angelle’s taglines from the 2015 election: “The last name is Angelle. It has two L’s. It stands for ‘Loves Louisiana.’”
The Bautsch Group has been retained to oversee fundraising and the super PAC is currently shopping for a media consultant.
Super PACs are political action committees with a special designation that allows them to raise unlimited amounts of money with no giving caps whatsoever.
The runoff question in the 3rd
While Scott Angelle entered the 3rd Congressional District race with enviable name ID, the crowded field may not allow him to capture victory outright in the primary.
So who is capable of making the runoff with him? As of now, no single candidate has caught fire in the polls as Angelle continues to eat up all of the oxygen in the room.
With eight Republicans in the race fighting over the same share of the electorate, general political interest has slowly turned to Democrat Larry Rader.
One of two Democrats in the race, Rader is the only black candidate running and the only one with deep roots in the party. He owns an insurance business in New Iberia and is currently president of the Port of Iberia.
Rader is actively campaigning and could benefit from the ground games being put together by Democrats more interested in the presidential and U.S. Senate races. His campaign may be one to keep tabs on in Acadiana.
The 3rd District is 71 percent white and 25 percent black.
They Said It
“Everyone is saying they’re voting for Duke and Trump. A blind man told me he was voting for Duke and Trump. The response has been overwhelming.”
—U.S. Senate candidate David Duke, to BuzzFeed
“I think the tax-free holiday makes great politics and lousy economics.”
— Florida state Sen. Tom Lee, on tax-free weekends like those in Louisiana, on PBS
For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.