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.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.