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.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Fifa under fire for fake turf plans; freed journalist back home; corporate conversions rising and more national and international news for Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her lead GOP challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy are running close when it comes to money. Landrieu has $5.5 million to Cassidy’s $5.6 million in the bank.
With expectations mounting that Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon announce his campaign for president, attention is turning to not only who he will bring along with him but also what will transpire politically back home during the transition.
Seven of the 11 U.S. cities in a new ranking of “most dangerous diets” are in the Bayou and Lone Star states, but the ranking is more about poverty than fried oysters.
Lafayette police are investigating a fatal shooting involving an alleged burglar and homeowner.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham got the message from the NFL. He's not dunking footballs over goal posts any more.
With qualifying over, the start of campaign season is official, and for the Lafayette Parish School Board, the race toward Nov. 4 will pit 20 candidates in battles for all 9 of the district’s available seats.
An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election Friday the same as any other candidate, filling out paperwork and handing over cash to pay his qualifying fee. But he finished it quite differently, doused with ice.
The recent release of Victor White III’s autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“Candidates for Congress and members of Congress spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back into power.”
Over the last four days of the trial against attorney Daniel Stanford, there’s been one notable absence from Judge Elizabeth Foote’s courtroom: attorney Bill Goode.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Nick Toon are not on the same page yet, and time is running short for Toon to get it right.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election the same as other candidates, filling out paperwork and handing over qualifying money. But he finished it like no other, doused with ice.
That’s what Lafayette Parish has obtained in Pentagon surplus since 2006.
Qualifying continues through Friday.