St. Charles Herald-Guide

State revenues down by $336 million

C.B. Forgotston - December 20, 2012

The state Revenue Estimating Conference just concluded its meeting. State General Fund revenue estimates have been reduced by $129 million for the current fiscal year and by $207 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. The latter reduction means that the stateís "fiscal cliff" for fiscal year 2014 is now at approximately $1.2 billion.

Should all of the Bush-era federal tax reductions expire, the state will lose another $200 million plus in state personal income tax revenues. Thus, the above reductions should be viewed as the best-case scenario.

This will be the fifth year in a row that the leges have allowed Gov. Bobby Jindal to convince them to overspend and the fifth year in a row that state agencies face mid-year budget cuts. Itís a classic definition of insanity ó doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.

Where the $129 million in cuts will be made in the current budget is anyoneís guess. The public which is most affected by the reductions is treated like mushrooms by the Jindal administration ó kept in the dark and covered with manure.

Slip of the tongue?

This summer the LSU Board of Supervisors ("BOS") held a retreat.

During the retreat something very disturbing was said and quickly hushed up. It involved the discussion of how best to govern the LSU (Charity) Hospitals. One idea was to appoint an outside advisory board.

Several board members Ö suggested that the advisory board would be able to guide hospital operations without the need for calling public meetings. (Times Picayune, August 19, 2012.)

While that would be a violation of the Open Meetings Law, the BOS intent was obvious; to avoid public scrutiny.

Privately, I was assured that the statement was a mistake and it was not the BOSís intent. Now, we are gradually learning of a plan that will accomplish exactly what was suggested.

According to media reports, the BOS plans to lease the operation of the new, still under construction LSU teaching hospital to a private non-profit group which would not subject to the Public Meetings Law.

The plan to lease the hospital may very well be the best financial option for the new hospital. For years State Treasury John Kennedy told us that the business plan for the hospital would not work. Hundreds of millions of state dollars (which donít exist) would be needed annually to operate the hospital.

However, it begs the question of why $1.2 billion of our tax dollars was spent to build a hospital that was a financial disaster?

The BOS flunks its fiduciary responsibility to the public. The trust is gone.

Next up: When will the ethically-challenged Stephen Moret be secretly selected to head the LSU System?