Budgets are expected to grow to some extent each year, but Louisiana's annual spending is accelerating at a rapid pace. The final term of Edwin Edwards produced a $3.1 billion increase in state spending between 1992 and 1996, while two terms of Mike Foster from 1996 to 2004 saw a $4.5 billion boost in the Louisiana budget. Blanco's first two years are producing a $2.5 billion spike in spending from state coffers.
The Revenue Estimating Conference found more money for lawmakers to dole out when it unearthed an additional $360 million at its May meeting. The windfall has not dissuaded Gov. Blanco from pushing for a $1 boost in the price per pack of cigarettes to fund a teacher pay raise. The smoking tax would lift Louisiana teachers to an average wage of $41,600 per year by 2007. The Blanco sin tax initiative would produce another $3,330 in teacher compensation over the next two years and also provide college faculty a 5 percent increase in annual stipends.
Blanco will need 26 votes in the Senate and 70 favorable tallies in the House to pass her so-called sin tax on cigarettes. She may get some aid from a state representative who won a Senate seat this month. Rep. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero, plans to delay his move to the upper chamber so that he can vote twice on key legislation, notably Blanco's cigarette tax.
The measure will begin in the House with Shepherd sitting as a state representative. The lawmaker will then move to the Senate and vote again. Senate officials have given their blessing to the timeline for the legislator, who won a special election for the seat vacated by Lambert Boissiere Jr., who became a New Orleans city constable. Shepherd's vote in the Senate could be especially critical with the death of John Hainkel leaving the chamber with 38 members. With 26 votes still a requirement for passage, it will now take 68.4 percent support from members for a tax to clear the Senate.
Politicians aren't the only ones rejoicing over the gusher of new money in this session; New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is probably salivating over his take. It will now be hard for Gov. Blanco and her surrogates to maintain that the state is strapped for the $15 million owed the Saints in July.
The deal hammered out by Gov. Foster and Benson has been a sore spot for Blanco, who has insisted her administration will be less liberal in contributions to the Saints. Benson may be fuming that the governor seemingly opens the state's pocketbook for everyone but him.
The current agreement expires after the 2010 season, but the Saints have a 90-day window after this season in which they can bolt for another city. National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue says he is poised to intervene in the Blanco-Benson brouhaha.
The Superdome is at the center of the controversy. The facility that was the vision of Gov. John McKeithen is now the third-oldest stadium in the NFL. Benson stated last week at the annual NFL owners' convention that he has no desire to leave his hometown, but feels the Superdome is inadequate and outdated. The 77-year-old erstwhile car dealer says he is no hurry to return to the negotiating table and does not plan to talk with the governor until February "after we win the Super Bowl."
Benson sounds doubtful about paying an $81 million exit penalty at the close of the team's 39th season in New Orleans, but the supposed $1 billion offer from an unnamed suitor to buy the club, and the NFL's continued push to reestablish a franchise in Los Angeles, could change his opinion. (Ironically, one of the prospective new homes for a franchise is the Los Angeles Coliseum, another ancient relic of the NFL.) Commissioner Tagliabue will likely make a case to Blanco for a new stadium being a necessity for the club to stay in Louisiana. The governor is advocating a $174 million renovation of the Superdome, but Benson remains adamantly against the plan.
"Thirty years ago when they built the Superdome â?¦ it was the pride of the country," Benson noted. "When anything gets old and you get a lot of gray hair, nobody wants you anymore." When the owner was reminded that he was married last year as he approached octogenarian status, Benson responded, "Yeah, well, I was very lucky."
By partially tying his bid for a new stadium to the hopes of a winning Saints season influencing legislators to keep the team in Louisiana, Benson better hope his luck continues.
The circumstances surrounding the death last March while in the backseat of a sheriff’s cruiser of Victor White III, long a source of dispute by White’s family, have earned an investigation by federal officials.
With six of the LPSB’s nine members poised for Pat Cooper’s termination, a request was filed Tuesday for a fast-tracked hearing on the federal lawsuit calling for the disqualification of two board members from voting on the matter due to bias.
Louisiana's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu with the Senate's ethics committee about her use of private chartered planes.
An attorney signs up to run against LPSB's Mark Cockerham, and within a week a lawsuit is filed by a former LPSS employee in an attempt to disqualify him. Coincidence?
The Ragin’ Cajuns got off to a superb start Saturday night, and the Human Jukebox made the soaked season opener even sweeter for the third-largest crowd in Cajun Field history.
The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge's order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
While bogged down with qualifying candidates last month, Secretary of State Tom Schedler didn’t lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stoned driving a concern when pot is legal; Detroit's bankruptcy trial; speed trap scandal in Florida and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 02, 2014.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."