In 1998, the City of Walker hired the state DOTD for $1.3 million to relocate some of Walker’s utility lines. DOTD didn’t send a bill until 2003. After the bill wasn’t paid, DOTD sent a second bill 9 years later in 2012. It was finally paid when the Legislative Auditor complained, though it’s hard to fault today’s Walker mayor and council for something that happened 14 years ago.
This is typical. As of March 31, 2012, $1.4 billion is owed Louisiana taxpayers in past due accounts receivable. Just about every state agency is owed money. This amount is fairly consistent over time, and rarely falls below $1 billion. The debt includes not just delinquent taxes, but unpaid fees, fines, medical bills, prescription drug rebates and services performed by the state. Over half of the current $1.4 billion, or 53%, is 180 days (that’s 6 months, folks) past due. No business in the real world could stay in business if it collected its bills the way Louisiana state government does.
Here’s what we need to do:
Step 1: Find someone competent to catalogue the state’s debt, analyze it, and decide which accounts are so old and uncollectible by the state that they ought to be sold pursuant to Rep. Chris Broadwater’s bill that we passed in the last legislative session. Repeat every 3 to 6 months. The state will receive immediate cash for these receivables, albeit at a discounted amount, but something’s better than nothing.
Step 2: Centralize collections. Right now every state agency is responsible for its own collections. However, DEQ, for example, is much better at protecting the environment than it is at collecting money, and the same is true for just about every agency. Centralizing collections would allow for uniform automated billing, computerized invoice monitoring, debt prioritization, better data, consistent collection practices, and generally an enhanced focus on collecting debts. It would require the state to view delinquent debt management as a core function of government rather than a lower-priority activity. Michigan, Ohio and Colorado have centralized their debt collection, and have the extra money to show for it.
Step 3: Use offsets. Employ technology to withhold tax refunds and vendor payments from those who owe the state money. Don’t give these debtors new state contracts. Prohibit people who owe the state money from running for office or being appointed to a board or commission. Other states have also found that liens, levees, garnishments and license holds have proven successful.
Step 4: Demand current information. Louisiana’s most recent receivables report is 90 days old. That’s an improvement; until recently, receivables reports were only compiled every 6 to 12 months. Someone in state government needs to monitor debts on a daily basis and that can’t be done without current information.
Step 5: Review the state’s credit policy. What is the state’s policy for extending credit in the first place instead of demanding immediate or pre-payment? Are we extending credit to people and businesses that are already delinquent? Is anyone pulling credit reports before extending large amounts of credit? We need a single new, uniform credit policy for every state agency, and we need to enforce it.
By adopting proven debt collection practices used effectively by other states and the private sector, I believe Louisiana could reduce its uncollected accounts receivable, and therefor improve its cash flow, at least by 10%. That’s an extra $140 million a year. A 20% improvement would be a $280 million a year.
Louisiana state government can do better. Louisiana taxpayers deserve better.
JUNE 20 Here's the transcript of the esteemed journalist Rush Limbaugh's recent spot on Sen. Elbert Guillory. Guillory's video explaining why all black folks need to go running right over to the GOP (and no, one of the reasons given is not that you can't get elected Lt. Gov. as a "D" in this state) is "amazing" and a "tear-jerker" to Mr. Limbaugh. Of course, he doesn't mention that Guillory thought enough of the D party to join it so he could get elected to the state senate. But Rush doesn't disappoint; he does manage to make the spot about him in the end.
JUNE 20 Here's a WBRZ investigative piece on a foundation in Baton Rouge that may have some problems. Like what, you ask? How about under-reporting income by $700K or having a member who gets contributions by telling folks about her mystical experiences? This lady says it all began 30 years ago when a bishop who died "spoke" to her from his coffin, letting her know that she was not "out of her head." Um, OK.
JUNE 20 Here's another analysis (or post-mortem, as the case may be) for Gov. Jindal's recent post in Politico. This time, it's from the editorial board of the LSU Reveille. The kids say there were some problems with the column; mostly, they were related to Jindal insulting his friends, his enemies, and everyone in between, including himself. The contradictions Jindal displayed weren't lost on these students -- or anybody else.
JUNE 20 This post by the editorial board of the Picayune congratulates former Saint Steve Gleason on the "inspiring" way the man has responded to a mean-spirited and just plain appalling skit on a radio station about him and ALS, the paralyzing and fatal disease he has. As usual, the editorial states, Gleason directed attention from himself and to the disease, which he says is misunderstood, underfunded and ignored. Maybe this will bring some attention to the disease, the board writes.
JUNE 20 The Advocate posts this story about the sudden death of James Gandolfini, the television, stage and film actor probably best known for his role as Tony Soprano on the HBO series. Gandolfini died while vacationing in Italy, the story reports. He won three Emmys for the Sopranos role, but also was honored with a Tony nomination for God of Carnage.
JUNE 20 Clancy DuBos writes here about the legal, financial and political quagmire that is NOLA law enforcement these days. Sheriff Gusman and Mayor Landrieu are facing off in federal court, and as DuBos says, the stakes are high. Gusman's prison is "a hellhole," DuBos writes, and Landrieu claims the books there are "deliberately unfathomable." Gusman says everything's hunky dory, but it would be better if he got more money from Landrieu. What a mess.
JUNE 20 Blogger Tom Aswell says Gov. Jindal needs to quit touring the country bragging about his "gold standard" of ethics reform -- because it just ain't true. Aswell gives us a lot of statistics on our dismal ethics record, including a long list of violations committed by our fearless leaders and political groups. Taken all at once, it's not a pretty picture, and certainly not a golden one.
JUNE 20 This post in the Picayune reports that a contractor pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme that involved fake bids and kickbacks. The contractor said he cut a deal with a guy working for Orleans Sheriff Gusman to submit fake bids so his real company could "win" work for the sheriff, the story says. The former sheriff's employee already has pleaded guilty, the story says. Meanwhile, Sheriff Gusman says he hasn't been contacted by any investigators.
JUNE 20 Here's a Huff Post blog by Jason Linkins, taking a few shots at Gov. Jindal for his recent Politico column. For instance, he takes issue with Jindal's advice that the GOP "stop the bedwetting," pointing out that there were certainly some Jindal-positive patches on those damp sheets. But the main gist of the column is that Jindal was singing one tune back in November, but he's using a different score now. Either way, it's hitting a sour note with Linkins.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.