- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

March 4

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s state budget proposal:

Far more than his predecessors Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco, the ideological matters to Gov. Bobby Jindal. So the tax-averse governor’s proposal to reassess some tax credits and exemptions in answer to the current state budget crisis is worthy of note.

But Jindal’s suggested solution to the budget quagmire is less than comprehensive, and some of its particulars appear to defy common sense.

The administration has previously been critical of a few of the tax credits and exemptions that have disfigured the state tax code and eroded state revenues to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years. Curiously, the governor didn’t propose cutting or eliminating those - for example, an enterprise zone credit and movie tax credits. Instead, he’s suggesting changes to the way the state reimburses industries that pay inventory taxes imposed by local governments. There is surely some room for cutting these subsidies, which have increased threefold in 10 years, presumably because of questionable decisions about what constitutes inventory. The way to do it is to find out where the superinflationary increase is coming from.

But the governor’s targeting of inventory taxes while sparing other lavish tax credits seems inspired by political expedience rather than enlightened policy. Cutting reimbursements for local inventory taxes would not, technically, be a tax increase at the state level, allowing Jindal to maintain the no-new-tax pledge he’s apparently embraced as part of his presidential ambitions.

It’s a feat of contortion that asks Louisiana’s core industries to shoulder a greater local tax burden while Hollywood filmmakers and their celebrity friends live lavishly on the state’s dime. Conservative values, this is not.

Jindal’s cravenly political motivations shadow other parts of his proposed budget. His suggested cuts to the state’s educational testing program, for example, are pure spite in an ongoing and needlessly partisan battle over national standards for academic performance.

At the very least, though, the governor’s opening concessions on tax policy appear to reflect a basic acknowledgment that the state’s budget challenges demand active negotiation. But advancing constructive compromise requires the governor’s ongoing engagement.

Characteristically, Jindal sent down his budget proposal and promptly left town for a national political gathering in Florida.

That’s not leadership, and it doesn’t reflect well on any governor, especially one who aspires to lead the free world.




March 3

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on tracking traffic offenses:

Louisiana is hopefully on the road to improving its driving laws.

In Texas and Arkansas, drivers are assigned points each time they’re convicted of a traffic offense. Once they’ve received a certain number of points, drivers face penalties - such as surcharges and license suspensions.

There’s no such system in place in Louisiana.

What we do have is the Problem Driver Pointer System, a program at the Office of Motor Vehicles that tags habitual offenders. A driver receives habitual offender status if they receive 10 convictions within three years. Louisiana’s OMV keeps track of the status of your driver’s license, the types of traffic offenses you’ve committed, and the number of offenses you’ve committed, but every city and parish must send that information to the agency. If they don’t, OMV can’t do their part.

That’s too many factors to really make a difference.

State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he plans to speak with colleagues once the session begins and form a study committee to consider a point system in Louisiana.

We wish him luck.

State Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, has said a bill to create a point system was introduced to the Legislature several years ago, but it never was voted on.

Peacock said he thinks it was because people felt it would cause drivers’ insurance rates to go up, and would mainly benefit insurance companies more than it would anyone else.

According to a Louisiana Highway Safety Commission report, 703 people died on Louisiana roads in 2013, the most recent year for which final data is available. While laws help, the most important key to safety is the responsibility of the person behind the wheel.

In a legislative session expected to be consumed by a budget crisis and Common Core, major talk of a point system will likely be overshadowed, but at least the conversation has started.




March 3

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on the Keystone XL pipeline:

The president’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline project was as predictable as it is nettlesome.

The project, which would have added about 1,000 miles to the nation’s existing network of 330,000 miles of pipelines, would have made it easier to move oil from the Midwest to Gulf Coast refineries. What made the project so extraordinary as the basis for an enduring partisan brouhaha was the fact that, in itself, it is so very ordinary.

You’d have to be committed to being angry to let this pipeline get under your skin.

Completed, the pipeline would have given the U.S. more ready access to oil from Canada, an ally, and perhaps less need for oil from the likes of Venezuela, whose leadership disdains this country and whose currency is in tatters, a situation that undermines its transactions with oil businesses in the U.S.

It would have created jobs, perhaps 30,000 and maybe 42,000 depending on whose estimates you accept. It would have provided a ready supply of oil for coastal refineries, including Louisiana’s, if the Canadian oil moved on the “Ho-Ho,” the Houston-to-Houma pipeline, and on to Louisiana’s many refineries.

Obama’s veto will not stop the extraction of oil from Alberta sands, not one bit. That will continue unabated. It will not stop Canadian oil from reaching the Gulf Coast - eventually - because it will likely come by rail, which may present greater safety risks than pipelines. Nowadays, about 1 million barrels of oil a day move by rail, and trains almost always reach their destination. But sometimes - and only sometimes - they end up in derailments or fiery crashes.

Those risks will continue because the president wills it.

“I hope we don’t have any issues with those thousands of rail cars,” said Louisiana Oil & Gas President Don Briggs. “Some of them come through Lafayette.”

More pointedly, the president’s veto will exacerbate and widen the gulf between his office and Congress. In that regard, it may be a harbinger of two more difficult political years.

Briggs said the veto was a sad reflection on a “broken” political system. Indeed it was: Congress approved it by vote, the public approved it in polls and even the president’s reliable friends in labor approved of it for the jobs it would have provided. That wasn’t enough for the president, who said that, somehow, the vote had “earned” his veto.

“Today, the president has made clear that Congress is for job creation, growth, energy security and economic resurgence while he is not,” said U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette.

Boustany said one thing stands between the wishes of the American people and the needs of the oil and gas industry and this pipeline: The president, an annoying obstructionist. That obstructionism was not evident when the Democrats ruled the Senate, and buried bills that met with his approval. But that obstructionism may become more evident now.

The Keystone XL is not dead, not by any stretch. The pipeline plan is probably sound enough and its pieces enough in place that it will endure another two years until another president takes office.

As time goes, that’s chump change; the pipeline has already been under this administration’s “review” for six years.



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