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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.
Hushed plans for a commercial development along the Louisiana Avenue portion of the Holy Rosary campus put the future of longtime tenant EarthShare Gardens in jeopardy.
If a recent advertisement in The Daily Advertiser is any indication, speculation the local daily will be implementing the “Butterfly Project” could be more of a reality than the Gannett-owned paper’s top execs are willing to admit.
Mettenberger injured his left knee while unloading a 32-yard completion in the fourth quarter of No. 14 LSU's 31-27 victory over Arkansas last Friday, and LSU coach Les Miles confirmed the severity of the injury on Wednesday.