Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Legislators Quick To Spend Parish Money; Can’t Decide How To Spend State Money

The Louisiana State Legislature proved once again this week that they are fiscally dysfunctional. Or, make that four times.

First, the State House passed a budget eliminating some of the one-time money used by Governor Jindal to fill some holes in the budget. Of course, after slamming the Governor for his use of one-time money, the House itself pulled some one-time money from out of thin air to fix their budget hole. I guess they didn’t like the Governor’s one-time money or they liked theirs better.
The House proudly sent their budget to the State Senate.

House Speaker Chuck Keckley (R-Lake Charles), along with Democratic and Republican leaders and members of the Black Caucus were effusive in their praise.
"This is a very balanced (plan), it's a very modest step forward," said Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and Gubernatorial candidate.

This week, the State Senate gutted the House budget, slashed the use of one-time money, added more money for education and a one-time bonus for school employees.
The Senate was also equally pleased with itself.

Like a Proud Papa, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue (R-Covington), called the Senate version the "best I've seen since I've been here."
"I like this budget and I'm proud of this budget and I'm tired of people telling me it's not a good budget," Donahue said.


The Senate then sent their version of the budget to the House which rejected it yesterday.
Noting the changes made by the Senate to the House budget, Rep. Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro) said, “With these changes the Senate made, I believe that we need to continue to work.”

The budget now goes to a conference committee of House and Senate members to work out a compromise before 6pm Thursday – tomorrow, or we’ll need a “Special Session” which will cost taxpayers even more money.
Speaking of costing taxpayers money, Legislators approved and sent to Governor Jindal a bill raising the salaries of Judges, Parish Assessors, and Sheriffs (whose salary increases are tied to Judges).

Assessors get a 4% increase for each of the next 4 years while Judges (and Sheriffs) get raises for the next 5 years.
The interesting part of this is that salaries for Assessors and Sheriffs come from Parish budgets meaning that the State Legislators essentially passed an “unfunded mandate” for local taxpayers to pick up the check.

Just last year, less than a year after he was elected, Jefferson Parish Assessor Tom Capella got his friends in the Legislature to approve increasing his budget by $1 Million so he could hire more staff. No one asked how former Assessor Lawrence Chehardy made it for so many years without all those extra bodies at the taxpayer trough.
When you consider the fact that most Parish Assessors simply show up at the office for 10 months out of the year for 3 of the 4 years that they are elected, and work slightly more during the 4th year when property is reassessed, the job of Parish Assessor could be the cushiest job in Louisiana.

How’s this for a job description:
Parish Assessor: Show up at your office (or not);  work limited hours usually 2 months out of the year and a little more one year out of every four; have a staff of professional assessors to do the work but room so you can pad the staff with political appointees; collect Hundreds of Thousands of dollars in salary plus benefits and a lucrative retirement plan with no term limits. No experience necessary. Guaranteed 4% salary increase every year for the next 4 years.

Good work if you can get it, right?