‘State to begin preparing $198 million in additional budget cuts’

The Times-Picayune reports:

The panel that watches over the flow of state revenues said Wednesday that collections are off by about $198 million this year, forcing cuts in the budget adopted by lawmakers last spring. The Revenue Estimating Conference voted 4-0 to accept the lower estimates prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Office, the arm of the Legislature that tracks economic activity and tax revenues.

Current estimates “appear to be too high,” fiscal office chief economist Greg Albrecht told the panel. He said the biggest shortfall is in the state’s collections of personal income tax, which is off about $142.5 million from earlier projections.

The oil and gas severance tax followed it closely, Albrecht said, down about $128.5 million from what had been projected.

Other areas of state revenues were holding up, such as the state tobacco settlement and sale of lottery tickets. Vehicle sales taxes also are running about $15 million ahead of projections.

The downturn in the numbers means the governor has 30 days to bring the budget in line with the new revenue estimates.



‘Gov. Jindal Says State Prepared for Tropical Storm Lee, Urges Residents in South Louisiana to Prepare for Flooding’

From the Office of the Governor:

BATON ROUGE – Governor Bobby Jindal held a press conference to update the public on the state’s efforts to monitor and prepare for Tropical Storm Lee, following a Unified Command Group meeting with state officials at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Governor Jindal said, “This storm system is currently parked in the Gulf, meaning we expect it to drop a significant amount of rain totaling 10 to 15 inches in some areas and up to 20 inches in isolated areas. The system is expected to affect South and Southeast Louisiana with the most rainfall, however many areas that are susceptible to backwater flooding are also expected to be impacted by the high rainfall.

“The National Weather Service told us that the center of this storm system is very broad, unlike the narrow center you see in a hurricane formation. This is what they call a ‘hybrid’ system with rain and some bands of tropical storm force winds with squalls spinning out of the center. Rainfall is expected in Louisiana through Tuesday night, including some tropical storm force winds and the potential for tornadoes. Tides could be 2 to 5 feet higher than normal.

“It is important for people to stay updated throughout the holiday weekend. Pay attention to the weather in your area and also the flash flood warnings from local officials. This storm is a good reminder to everyone that this time of year is still a very busy time for hurricanes and tropical storms. We are reminded that 47 percent of storms develop in the month of September during hurricane season.

“All our people should prepare now to ensure you have an evacuation plan in place, plenty of water, non-perishable food items, hygiene supplies, sufficient clothing, and any prescription medications you or your family may need in the event of a storm. This storm is not expected to become a hurricane at this point, but we are reminded yet again to always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Emergency Declarations

Governor Jindal said the state issued an emergency declaration for the storm system yesterday and 10 parishes have already issued their own declarations, including:

  • Terrebonne
  • Lafourche
  • Jefferson
  • St Charles
  • Vermilion
  • St John
  • Tangipahoa
  • Assumption
  • LaSalle
  • St. Tammany

Governor Jindal said Lafourche Parish issued a voluntary evacuation for south of the floodgates to begin at 12 Noon today. The Larose Civic Center will be open as a shelter for those who evacuate there. Grand Isle also called for a voluntary evacuation for their residents beginning at 11AM today. In Jefferson Parish, 25,000 feet of tiger dams owned by the parish are being deployed to Lafitte in preparation for possible flooding there.

Governor Jindal also said that the Orleans Levee District has closed 13 gates thus far, including one railroad gate at France road at Industrial Canal. Lake Borgne Levee District plans on closing their one railroad gate. East Jefferson Levee District reports the Corps is closing gaps near an airport runway levee. Seven floodgate structures are closed in Terrebonne, and the Bayou Lafourche gate is closed in Lafourche. Plaquemines is monitoring low spots and evaluating the need to close a railroad gate there. St. Bernard is closing two sector gates and 12 access gates.


State Preparedness Efforts

  • GOHSEP activated the Crisis Action Team to monitor the storm.
  • DOTD reports no road closures due to storm activity. However, DOTD has halted construction on the La. 1 Expressway from the Gulf to Leeville and the Caminada Bay Bridge until further notice due to tropical force winds. DOTD has also instructed contractors to secure materials and equipment in construction sites that may be affected by inclement weather.
  • DOTD urges citizens to get the latest updates on real-time traffic and road conditions by dialing 511 from their telephone and saying the route or region about which they are seeking information. Travelers can also access this information by visiting the 511 Traveler Information Web site at www.511la.org.
  • DHH is monitoring water systems throughout South Louisiana. There is always the possibility that heavy rains or other major storm activity will cause sewage treatment systems to fail. Because of this, DHH urges residents to not let children play in floodwaters or ingest them in any way.
  • DHH announced that it will close Oyster Harvest Areas 1 through 28. This precautionary closure is effective today, September 2, 2011 at official sunset. Tropical Storm Lee will have the potential to create flooding conditions that can cause natural contaminates to be washed into rivers, bayous and streams where they can then flow into the oyster-growing areas. DHH expects to reopen the oyster areas as soon as severe weather conditions have subsided and officials are able to verify the safety of the resource for human consumption.
  • DHH is also working with hospitals and nursing homes to ensure they have fuel in their generators, if needed.
  • DEQ has ground teams prepared to assess damaged areas to look for releases and survey sewage treatment plants for environmental contamination.
  • DCFS communicated with the American Red Cross about the possible need for shelter space and they are prepared to assist parishes as needed. They have identified around 2,500 shelter spaces for those who self evacuate, if needed.
  • LDWF enforcement agents have relocated 25 offshore vessels that were being utilized on the coast inland in preparation for the storm. All LDWF enforcement agents are on stand-by. LDWF has 225 agents and 150 vessels ready for response. The LDWF mobile command unit and three fuel trailers are also on stand-by.

 Marsh Fire Update

Governor Jindal said the National Guard stopped their water-dropping operations over the marsh fire due to the increased wind and inclement weather. They have dropped over 1.1 million gallons of water as part of those operations to date.

The Department of Environmental Quality is not issuing an air quality alert for New Orleans and Baton Rouge for particulate matter for today.  The highest readings at monitors throughout the area show levels below alert level at either moderate or good. Forecasts show the Air Quality Index (AQI) will be below the orange level – which is unhealthy for sensitive people.



‘State Agencies on Alert for Tropical System in Gulf’

From the Office of the Governor:

BATON ROUGE – Governor Bobby Jindal held a Unified Command Group (UCG) meeting today to get an update on the tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico. Governor Jindal emphasized that state agencies are prepared to assist coastal parishes should the system develop further and he also encouraged Louisianians to make sure they have a gameplan as the Gulf Coast braces for the height of hurricane season.

Governor Jindal said, “We’re closely monitoring the weather in the Gulf and our agencies are on alert and stand ready to assist coastal parishes if the system strengthens. We know from experience that it’s best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and since we’re at the height of the hurricane season, now is a good time for Louisianians to make sure they have a gameplan to protect themselves and their families if a major storm approaches our coast.”

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness’ (GOHSEP’s) Crisis Action Team (CAT) is monitoring the system, which is currently located in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. The system is currently expected to bring heavy rain and possible flash flooding to coastal South Louisiana. At this point, the National Weather Service is estimating a possible accumulation of 10 to 12 inches of rain along coastal parishes over the next five days. Higher than normal tides are also expected.

“We will remain in contact with coastal parishes in the event they need assistance. With this being a holiday weekend, we encourage everyone to pay attention to their local forecasts and public officials for further guidance, if necessary. We certainly don’t want anyone getting caught off guard,” said Interim GOHSEP Director Pat Santos. 

Hurricane season ends November 30. As a precaution, people should have extra supplies on hand such as non-perishable foods, bottle water, flashlights and extra batteries, in the event weather develops into something more severe. For a complete list of supplies and how you can keep your family safe from all hazards, go to www.getagameplan.org.


Governor Jindal Urges Hunters, Campers to Take Advantage of 2011 2nd Amendment Tax Holiday

BATON ROUGE – Governor Bobby Jindal urges hunters and campers to take advantage of the 2011 Louisiana Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday that runs Friday, September 2 through Sunday, September 4.

Governor Jindal said, “This is a great opportunity for all hunters and campers to save money on the equipment they need to enjoy Sportsman’s Paradise. The weekend-long event will also bring more customers to our local hunting and sporting stores which will further benefit our businesses and Louisiana’s economy.”

A wide range of supplies is eligible for exemption from all state and local sales taxes.  Eligible items include:

  • Shotguns, rifles, pistols, revolvers or other handguns
  • Ammunition intended to be fired from a gun or firearm
  • Accessories designed to be used for hunting
  • Apparel such as safety gear, camouflage clothing, jackets, hats, gloves, mittens, face masks and thermal underwear for use while hunting
  • Off-road vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles designed for hunting.  The exemption does not apply to golf carts, bikes, motorcycles, tractors, or motor vehicles which may be legally driven on highways

In 2009, Governor Jindal signed a bill into law authorizing an annual “sales tax holiday” for the purchase of firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies

Visit revenue.louisiana.gov/secondamendment for more information including the full list of eligible items and special provisions of this sales tax holiday.



‘Jindal OKs tax break legislation’

Governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law several tax breaks lawmakers passed in the recently completed legislative session.

The signing ceremonies took place at several Louisiana businesses.

The Advocate reports:

At Sasol North America Inc.’s chemical complex near Lake Charles, Jindal signed legislation that offers payroll rebates and other incentives to businesses.

Senate Bill 72 by state Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, rewards certain employers with a rebate for paying at least $14.50 an hour in wages and health benefits. Sales tax rebates and investment credits also are possible.

The legislation renews the program, called Louisiana Quality Jobs, for six years.


Later in the day, the governor signed House Bill 597 at TraceSecurity Inc. in Baton Rouge.

HB597 by state Rep. Michael Jackson, D-Baton Rouge, restarts the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program that ended in 2009.

The program encourages investment in start-up companies.


‘Gov. Bobby Jindal "not fighting" cigarette tax extension grafted onto bill’

The Times-Picayune reports that the renewal of a four-cent cigarette tax is likely to win approval in the legislature, and then move on to a referendum before Louisiana voters.

Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego, said Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration has agreed not to try to strip the cigarette-tax language from his Senate Bill 53, which also would dedicate tobacco-settlement money to the TOPS college scholarship program.

“They’re not fighting it,” Alario said.

The House resurrected the cigarette tax this week by tacking it onto the TOPS amendment, which is a top priority for the governor and a key component of the state budget picture. It came after Jindal vetoed a separate bill that would have permanently extended the tax, which generates about $12 million a year, and the House failed to override the veto.

Jindal said extending the tax is the same as an increase and would violate his promise to oppose all tax increases. Although two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate had agreed to the bill, the governor was able to persuade 11 House members who supported the original bill to switch sides and vote against the override.

By adding the tax language to a constitutional amendment, supporters were able to circumvent a possible veto because amendments go straight to voters and do not require a governor’s signature.


‘House refuses to override Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of cigarette tax extension’

From the Times-Picayune:

BATON ROUGE — As expected, the House of Representatives has declined to overturn Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of a bill to extend a temporary 4-cent levy on packs of cigarettes, with several Republicans and a handful of others siding with the GOP governor after voting for House Bill 591 when it moved through the legislature earlier this session.

Today’s 58-44 count fell short of the necessary 70 votes necessary to override the governor’s action.


LDR News Release: Hurricane prep supplies free from state sales tax May 28 & 29

BATON ROUGE – Save money while protecting your home and your family from hurricanes.

The 2011 Louisiana Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday takes place Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29.  During these two days, specified emergency supplies are exempt from the 4 percent state sales tax.

 “This is a good opportunity to stock up on the basic items families need in the event of a strong storm,” Governor Bobby Jindal said.  “The fact is when storms or other emergencies impact our state, power is down, streets are covered with debris and sometimes high waters prevent folks from going to the store and getting what they need. This tax holiday doesn’t just make financial sense, it’s about reminding folks to Get-a-Gameplan, get prepared, and take steps now to protect their family in the event of a storm.”

 The sales tax exemption applies to the first $1,500 of the purchase price of each of the following items:

  • Self-powered light sources, such as flashlights and candles
  • Portable self-powered radios, two-way radios, and weather-band radios
  • Tarpaulins or other flexible waterproof sheeting
  • Ground anchor systems, straps or tie-down kits
  • Gas or diesel fuel tanks
  • Batteries, sizes AAA, AA, C, D, 6-volt, or 9-volt (Automobile batteries and boat batteries are ineligible)
  • Cellular phone batteries and chargers
  • Non-electric food storage coolers
  • Portable generators
  • Storm shutter devices (Materials and products manufactured, rated, and marketed specifically for the purposes of preventing window damage from storms)
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • “Blue Ice” (and similar re-usable cooling products)

The 2011 Louisiana Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday does not apply to items or supplies purchased at airports, public lodging establishments, hotels, convenience stores, or entertainment complexes.

For more information, visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/hurricaneprep.


Report: ‘Jindal defends privatization of La. health insurance plan’

From the Advocate:

Amid controversy over plans to privatize a state workforce health insurance plan, the Jindal administration sought Monday to clarify the idea to lawmakers.

Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said the governor is not suggesting that a “for sale” sign should be placed in front of the Office of Group Benefits.

He said the administration might offer up the agency’s book of business to a private company for a cash payment, possibly $150 million.

Some lawmakers struggled to understand the difference.

“Are you saying all of us didn’t understand you last week?” asked state Sen. Butch Gautreaux during a meeting of the Senate Retirement Committee.

“You three guys are the only ones who understand this,” he said, referring to Rainwater and two other Jindal administration officials.

The agency oversees coverage for about 250,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents, according to a page on the Division of Administration’s website.



‘Governor Jindal Proclaims This Week “Saints Week” in Louisiana’

Governor Jindal Proclaims This Week “Saints Week” in Louisiana

 BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal proclaimed the week of February 8, 2010 as “Saints Week” to commemorate the first Super Bowl win ever for the New Orleans Saints.

 Proclamation on Saints Week:

 WHEREAS, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 to win their first ever Super Bowl in 43 years; and

 WHEREAS, Tracy Porter’s game-clinching interception and Thomas Morstead’s game-changing onside kick will forever be ingrained in the memories of the Who Dat Nation; and

 WHEREAS, the gutsy calls of Sean Payton and the skilled arm of Drew Brees has led the Saints through an unforgettable season; and

 WHEREAS, the Saints played for more than just themselves, they played for a city and a state that has looked to the team for hope through difficult times; and

 WHEREAS, the Saints have committed themselves to excellence on and off the field; and

 WHEREAS, the Saints were always resilient much like the people of Louisiana persevered through four storms in three years; and

 WHEREAS, the support of the Who Dat Nation has never waivered in good times or bad.

 NOW THEREFORE, I proclaim this week, the week of February 8, 2010 as “Saints Week” in the State of Louisiana to commemorate the first Super Bowl win ever for the New Orleans Saints.