Another poll puts Vitter ahead in governor’s race

By Jeremy Alford and John Maginnis

Special to the Herald-Guide

January 03 at 10:23 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

In polling both a large field of candidates for governor and a small one, a new statewide survey leaked to LaPolitics.com shows that U.S. Sen. David Vitter holds a small lead over New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

The poll was conducted by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research for Dardenne’s campaign using a sample size of 800 likely voters. The margin of error is 3.5 percent.

In a three-way race with party ID provided, Vitter leads with 35 percent, followed by Landrieu at 29 percent and Dardenne at 22 percent.

When asked to score their job performances and provided with party ID, poll respondents put Vitter at 60 percent favorable and 22 percent unfavorable; Landrieu at 51 percent-18 percent; and Dardenne at 46 percent-6 percent.

The poll findings were originally released to donors during a conference call in late November. It marks the first poll to include Landrieu, a Democrat currently running for re-election for mayor who has said he is not a candidate for governor.

In the event of an all-GOP runoff, the poll shows Vitter leading Dardenne, 40-36 percent.

A source said that many Dardenne supporters were encouraged that Vitter, despite this year’s positive press attention for his attacks against President Barack Obama, isn’t polling around 50 percent in trial runs.

“He should be the de facto water-walker right now,” said a source involved with the conference call.

Donors were also told that Dardenne stands a chance of peeling off voters from Vitter when the money starts flowing and messaging gets serious. When the poll added a narrative to Dardenne, he overtook Vitter in a hypothetical runoff scenario by a large margin.

Cross-tabs for the WPA poll were not provided and pollster Chris Wilson was unable to immediately comment.

Lawmakers expect more budget problems

Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, is predicting a “significant budget shortfall” that could exceed $500 million for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

“We cannot continue to put off our operating budget problems when the state also faces tremendous liabilities in road backlogs, retirement debt and higher education deferred maintenance,” Schroder wrote in an exclusive op-ed for LaPolitics.com.

He further noted that over the past few years the Legislature has relied heavily on the use of non-recurring funds to pay for recurring expenditures; sweeping dollars out of dedicated fund surpluses; transferring money in and out funds; and using loopholes to circumvent the intent of the law.

While a budget shortfall being debated in the 2014 session will be a repeat of previous sessions, he added that two things have taken place recently that could put a damper on these practices.

“First, the Legislature enacted an important budget reform bill (in 2013),” Schroder said. “Act 419 requires that the REC (Revenue Estimating Conference) officially adopt/recognize revenues that are required to be forecasted by the Louisiana Constitution. That means the Legislature will have to spend real money on real expenses.”

The second operational shift involves a court ruling regarding the use of statutorily dedicated funds for any purpose other than what is provided for in law.

“That means that neither the Legislature nor the governor should take money that was raised as a fee for one thing and use it on something else,” he said. “Basically, we have to be honest with the taxpayers and in the future, these two initiatives should give the governor and the Legislature pause while crafting the state budget before using already dedicated funds."

Donelon wants to expand health savings accountIn the wake of new regulations being ushered in by the federal Affordable Care Act,  state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon tells LaPolitics that the role of health savings accounts need to be expanded.

He said HSAs, which can hold money that is not taxable and can only be used for medical expenses, “encourage consumers to make their own choices about how high a deductible they can pay, what doctors they want, and how much copay they are willing to take in order to get a cheaper premium.”

This is important, Donelon said, because a requirement of the new “Obamacare” policies is there are no lifetime limits on essential health benefits within 10 categories including hospitalization, maternity, mental health and prescription drug coverage.

“These and other essential health benefits are now standard, regardless of whether a person actually wants such benefits,” he said. “This is another factor driving up costs.”

HSAs, which are often available to those with high-deductible coverage, give consumers a choice again, he said.

“For example, a man might not need maternity coverage in his policy, and a woman may not need to pay for prostate cancer screening,” Donelon said. “Expanded use of HSAs would enable the consumer, not bureaucrats, to decide what risks to insure.”




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