|11th Week of the Regular session - June 16, 2008|
|Monday, June 16 2008 - 12:00 am|
Pay Raises are the big item of discussion and everyone seems to be pretty upset with the legislature. You already know my feelings against any pay raise. We have a lot of important things to do and pay raises is not one of them. The people have spoken through term limits and part time pay for a part time job. Both are meant to keep this job one of public service. It is us, the politicians, who continue to try to make this a full time job by running for every seat available. It is a shame that this issue has taken so much time and has done so much damage to an otherwise productive session. The house passed a reduced version of the senate’s threefold pay increase by narrowing it down to an obscene twofold increase. The issue will be back in the senate this week, maybe Tuesday. The problem is that pay raises have now passed both houses and even if it is defeated this week in the senate it will end up in a conference committee. Continue to encourage your legislators to vote against pay raises at every opportunity. The worst thing that I can imagine is that this pay raise would pass, as I feel it would do irreparable damage to the relationship existing between legislators and their constituents.
The return to pre Stelly tax rates passed the senate unanimously this week and the tax payers get a break – hooray for our side!! Louisiana citizens can change their withholding status on January 1, 2009 so they can feel the effects immediately. The tax tables will not be ready for a while.
The bill allowing colleges to Raise Tuition passed my Finance Committee and will be on the floor of the senate this coming week. Letting colleges have something to say about their own tuition level seems to be a fair idea. However, for the universities to increase their own tuition requires a 2/3 vote of both houses. A 2/3 vote in both houses is tough to get on almost any issues.
We are continuing to have problems fitting the expenditures under the Spending Cap. We were supposed to have the budget to approve on Friday. Then we moved it back to Monday morning at 9am. The latest word is that now we will not meet until after adjournment on Monday night. We have the room to restore some of the cuts to healthcare and Higher Education but we must also leave some room under the cap for normal state operations during the year that may require expenditures. When things are this tight to the cap and there is a lot of money left over above the cap limits it spells S-P-E-C-I-A-L S-E-S-S-I-O-N. Next year will hold one maybe two special sessions. One to take care of the surplus funds above the cap and the other for health care.
Speaking of Healthcare it is distressing that the governor did not address the very serious dilemma of what to do with Charity Hospital. There are a lot of things riding on the decisions that need to be made and they need to be made now. We may hear something definitive shortly.
Let me mention that the Governor is coming under a lot of criticism for not agreeing to veto the proposed pay raises for the legislators. He had previously agreed that he would not veto the pay raises and in his defense he probably had no idea of the size of the proposed pay raises. He is in a tough spot being trapped between vetoing the pay raises which he wants to do and living up to his no veto commitment. His public statements about the size of the pay raises is a real good indication of how he feels but I don’t think he can go back on his word.
To all you Fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!!!