Sue Lincoln

Reporter

Sue Lincoln is a veteran reporter in the political arena. Her radio experience began in the early ’80s, in “the other L-A” — Los Angeles.

Since her transplantation to Louisiana 25 years ago, she has covered the state, the capital, and its colorful cast of characters for Louisiana Radio Network, LPB and the Southern Education Desk.

Now she’s focusing her experience and expertise on producing WRKF’s Capitol Access.

Ways To Connect

Why do Louisiana’s student counts keep coming up so woefully short, requiring the state to come up with more money for K-12 education each spring?

House Appropriations chairman Jim Fannin led the effort to find out why Louisiana’s mid-year MFP shortfall had grown from $18-million in 2008 to $56-million in 2014.

“When you have an increase in need in the MFP and you have a decrease in your revenue, it creates a train wreck,” Fannin told the Legislative Audit Advisory Council Thursday, as they received a report on a legislatively requested audit of the student count problem.

The House Appropriations Committee has begun the process of combing through the governor’s budget proposal, and got some rather unpleasant news from Secretary of State Tom Schedler.

“I have no money for elections past the fall statewide elections,” Schedler said of the allocations in the 2016 budget plan. “And the most affected election would be the presidential preference primary in the spring. I have no funding for it.”

The Jindal administration’s plan to sell off the remaining 40 percent of Louisiana’s tax settlement went before the board that oversees the tobacco dollars Tuesday. The administration wants to complete the sale by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. They’re hoping the money will be available to help with balancing the 2016 budget, which has an anticipated $1.6-billion shortfall.

“You never make a financial decision this important when you’re under this kind of financial pressure,” state Treasurer John Kennedy objected to board members.

This is “Sunshine Week”, with media organizations and civic groups across the nation working to educate the public on governmental access.

Here in Louisiana, the House Appropriations Committee starts working through the proposed budget this morning, yet the budget bill, HB 1, didn’t appear on the legislative website till 4 p.m. yesterday. Meanwhile, the Associated Press asked state agencies for public records regarding worst-case scenarios for the $1.6-billion budget shortfall. AP was told no.

One reason? “Deliberative process.”

“That ‘deliberative process’, which applies only to the governor and only to his office, has been widely used by all the other state agencies,” says The Advocate’s Capitol Bureau chief, Mark Ballard.

Have you noticed you don’t see “inventory reduction” sales regularly, like you used to? That’s because of Louisiana’s business inventory tax credit, put in place in the 1990s.

“It certainly has been no reason for companies to deplete their inventories at the end of the year,” state Sen. Robert Adley observes.

Businesses still do count their inventory, and pay local taxes on their stock on hand. But when they file their corporate income tax returns with the state, Louisiana reimburses the companies for every penny they paid in inventory tax—even if the amount exceeds the other state taxes the business owes.

Should Louisiana repeal its 20-year-old severance tax exemption for horizontal wells? LSU economist Jim Richardson believes the time for that particular economic incentive has passed.

“In 1994, nobody knew how to do horizontal drilling. Today, everybody knows how to do horizontal drilling,” Richardson says of the tax break implemented to encourage what was then a new technology.

Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association president Chris John says the severance tax exemption for fracking wells keeps Louisiana in the shale production game.

At the state capitol, it seems like everybody is talking about Grover.

No, not Sesame Street’s Grover. They’re talking about Grover Norquist, the Washington, D.C. lobbyist and founder of ATR — Americans for Tax Reform.

State Sen. Robert Adley is not a fan.

“That ATR bunch we’re havin’ to live with? I just found out who they are,” Adley announced at a recent meeting.

Anticipating the coming fiscal year’s massive shortfall, Louisiana’s legislature commissioned a comprehensive analysis of the state’s entire tax structure. That report was delivered Tuesday.

“Do we have the right tax structure for 2015 and on?” LSU economist Jim Richardson said was the main question being considered. “It’s a tax structure we put in place in 1973.”


Some of the renovations going on at the Capitol are obvious, as chain-link fencing and mounds of dirt block access and parking. For others, you have to look up — way up.

From the floor of the House chamber, turn back toward the balcony. There, on a scaffold, stands George Stuart. He’s painting the ceiling.

“This is a touch-up,” he explains. “We had water damage and the paint started peeling. Whole sections had to be re-plastered.”

Louisiana’s budget problems have many criticizing the tax incentives for the entertainment industry, which cost the state about $250-million last year. A legislative task force has been looking into ways to curb fraud in the film program. They met last week, to discuss the thrust of bills they may file in the upcoming legislative session.

“These are various common-sense measures that we think can be taken to perhaps make it a little bit less easy to steal from these programs,” Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street said, as he prepared to give the panel suggestions based on his experiences investigating problems with the programs.

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