News for Wednesday 021716
By Dave Graichen
A new poll shows that a vast majority of Louisiana residents do not support increasing taxes to help state government solve its huge budget deficit this fiscal year. Southern Media and Opinion Research surveyed 500 likely voters and 72% of them said “no” to raising taxes and fees. [Pollster Bernie Pinsonat says that’s because state government has lost credibility with the people of Louisiana. Pinsonat says the public is wary of raising taxes on businesses because of concern about the economy.] That same survey showed 54% of people believe the state budget can be balanced without raising taxes.
That same survey shows Governor John Bel Edward has an approval rating of 42-percent. Pollster Bernie Pinsonat says to make matters worse for Governor Edwards, the statewide elected official with the highest approval rating is Treasurer John Kennedy, who is arguing against the tax increases that the governor is pushing for. Pinsonat says 25-percent respondents disapprove of Edwards performance so far.
It’s day four of the special session that’s attempting to resolve the state’s $957 million deficit. Barry Erwin, Head of the Council for a Better Louisiana, says legislators will be looking for both short-term and long-term solutions. Erwin says he is unsure if lawmakers will be able to completely fix the budget problems in only three weeks. Erwin says the budget has been in trouble for several years and lawmakers should have addressed it sooner.
The House Ways and Means Committee will hear testimony today for tax increases on tobacco, alcohol, Internet sales and car rentals. Legislators will begin voting on these tax proposals, after they hear from supporters and opponents of each of the proposed taxes.
A proposal to use 128-million dollars in rainy day funds to fill the massive budget hole for this fiscal year was approved by the Senate finance committee. The panel also decided to redirect 200-million dollars in Gulf oil spill recovery money. Both bills head to the full senate for more discussion.
Fees are going up for camping and boat launches at Cotile Lake Recreation Area. The Rapides Parish Police Jury has approved fee increases that will take effect on March 1.
The fee for camping with electricity will rise from $20 to $25 per day. The fee for camping with electricity and sewerage will increase from $25 to $30 per day. The boat launch fee will go from $3 per day to $5 per day. The fee increases were recommended by the Cotile Lake Study Committee.
Legislators on the House Appropriations Committee discovered this week the state is paying Saints owner Tom Benson almost $2 million more than the market value of 323,000 square feet of space the state leases in Benson Tower, including an entire floor that's unoccupied. The lease, which was negotiated by former Bobby Jindal and approved by the Legislature in 2009, was part of a deal that keeps the Saints in Louisiana through 2025.
A Natchitoches man has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the state’s nearly $1 billion budget deficit. Eric Boleyn’s online donation page reads “Help Louisiana, Need $900 million.” The description explains that any donations will be put towards the crippling budget deficit the state is facing. The page has been shared by thousands of people and has brought in a total of $40 in the past four days.
The House appropriations committee heard testimony yesterday about the impact of proposed cuts to health care. Covington Representative John Schroeder was upset to hear about plans to close a pediatric health care program that helps disabled children. Chief financial officer for DHH, Jeff Reynolds, says costs have escalated because the program has been abused by health care providers.
Shreveport Representative Barbara Norton has proposed a bill for the regular session that would require metal detectors to be installed at movie theaters. This would prevent people from bringing weapons into theaters. The bill comes as a response to the deadly shootings that occur at movie theaters around the country, including one in Lafayette last year.
A Lake Charles man has developed a new way of keeping athletes hydrated during a game. Joseph Tucker created the Hydra-Guard, which is the first re-hydrating mouth guard in the world. Tucker says the mouth guard will be released online February 25thand you can fill up the hands free system with water or your favorite sports drink. The mouth guard will retail for $34.99. Tucker says it holds just enough liquid to prevent athletes from getting dry mouth while playing.
Former Saints safety Darren Sharper is facing charges for allegedly drugging and raping multiple women. Sharper has received a new plea hearing set for Thursday. Legal analyst Tim Meche says Sharper could possibly plead guilty without the guaranteed sentence he was hoping to get, or he could go to trial. Meche says things could get far worse for Sharper. Sharper’s new trial date is set for May 16th.