- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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Aug. 21

The Courier of Houma on expiring sales taxes:

The state is facing another budget crisis.



In the middle of next year, when a host of sales taxes are set to expire, Louisiana’s government will have a shortfall of at least $1 billion.

An estimate earlier this week said the shortfall will be $1.5 billion.

That figure brought complaints from lawmakers and the governor’s office that it is likely too high.

At this point, the exact dollar amount is less important than the knowledge that there is a huge gap between the amount that will be scheduled to be spent and the amount that is scheduled to come in in the form of revenue.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said the key to solving the latest crisis will be in raising revenue, another way of saying he wants to raise taxes. On that front, the state will encounter a $1.1 billion decrease in tax revenue.

“The (debate) has to be driven by a discussion on revenue because that’s what’s falling off,” Dardenne said after the hearing. “We have to look at it as a $1.1 billion cliff.”

He is partly correct. The next fiscal crisis is the result of temporary sales taxes expiring.

But those taxes were created as temporary fixes for another crisis. They were purposely designed to expire to give lawmakers and the governor a strong incentive to come to a longer-term solution to the financial problems that continue to plague our state.

Treating this as only a revenue problem closes to door to potential solutions.

Surely there are cuts that can be made to state spending - cuts that might alleviate the need for further taxes.

There is no reason to discount the possibility of cuts. And it is disingenuous to speak of temporary taxes expiring as simply a revenue issue.

The state has a serious problem, and we cannot begin contemplating real solutions until our leaders recognize that the gap between spending and revenue probably must be addressed by a combination of raising taxes and cutting spending.

It doesn’t make sense to give too much weight to the temporary fixes that were supposed to be just that.

Instead, the ongoing problems demand solutions that don’t rely on the short-term fixes that got us to this point.

We didn’t get to this point overnight. And we won’t resolve it without some serious discussions about our state’s fiscal practices. Taking half the necessary solution off the table before those discussions begin is unhelpful.

Online: https://www.houmatoday.com/

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Aug. 18

The Advocate on Louisiana’s past providing a blueprint for how FEMA could restructure disaster aid:

Writing checks, the wags say, is what the United States government does best.

Except, we think, when it comes to disaster aid.

In a meeting marking the beginning of hurricane season, President Donald Trump met with members of the Cabinet and others. He said aid would not be held up in the event of a disaster.

“We do it quickly. We do it effectively,” Trump said. “We are very strong with respect to FEMA. FEMA is something I’ve been very much involved in already.”

While a disaster is by nature a chaotic situation, we think there are lessons that the president and Congress could learn from Louisiana, where we’ve had a lot more experience than even a New York City developer at the time of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, who now happens to be president of the United States.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is not perfect, but since the catastrophically poor response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, presidents Barack Obama and Trump have appointed experienced administrators to this critical job. FEMA has done better, no question.

But can it do better still? We think Louisiana folks could give valuable lessons.

After the disastrous floods in the greater Baton Rouge area, too many people could not get access to FEMA soon enough. To quote a favorite line of the congressman representing the capital city region, Garret Graves, “the federal government has a customer service problem.”

Graves has helped to do something about it, pushing legislation to make databases accessible directly in an emergency, instead of requiring people to wait on the telephone for FEMA agents or contractors.

That small but welcome step should only be the first way in which the U.S. government reassesses its response to natural disasters.

Maybe FEMA should have more authority, rather than less. Today, hurricane response is in FEMA’s corner, but long-term recovery aid - as Louisiana has found out again this year - is by law doled out in packets by a dysfunctional budget process in Congress. The checks then come via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, through block grant programs.

We don’t knock anybody, but we cannot help but wonder that the long process of rulemaking and regulation-writing by HUD stands in the way of the president’s boast about efficiently writing checks. The goal is to use block grant funds correctly and without waste or corruption. The reality is that state and local officials face a new bureaucracy that reinvents the wheel, one of the reasons most cited for delays in aid after the 2016 flooding.

Louisiana’s members of Congress and Gov. John Bel Edwards have spoken directly to new HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who visited New Orleans and Baton Rouge to observe the problems and opportunities here first hand.

These issues are complex. We don’t need a new federal bureaucracy midway between FEMA and HUD. The taxpayer should be protected against fraudulent claims. But surely the events over the last dozen years in Louisiana should lead Congress to restructure how disaster aid is delivered, so that the checks come in a timely fashion for communities.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/

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Aug. 22

Lake Charles American Press on a website that help children Louisiana’s foster care:

More than 7,800 children in Louisiana were under the state’s foster care system during the most recent fiscal year. Thankfully, the state has launched a new website that is intended to make sure those children receive the quality care they need and deserve.

The website, www.LouisianaFosters.la.gov, was created to bring foster parents together with help from businesses, non-profits and the community. It came about because of a $25,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and was sponsored by Donna Edwards, Louisiana’s first lady.

The website also includes informative links for those interested in becoming foster parents. It defines what foster care is and identifies the responsibilities and requirements a foster parent must meet.

Considering the trauma and pain foster children have faced, it’s important that potential foster parents understand what they need to do in order to love and care for them. The website provides some of the tools needed to offer that unconditional love and support.

It also lists how businesses, church groups and other organizations can help in making sure foster children have quality care. Some suggestions include hiring those who are aging out of the foster system and sponsoring events for foster families.

Meanwhile, another new website provides resources for parents and those caring for children with autism or other disabilities. La.exceptionallives.org, is an offshoot of Exceptional Lives, a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization that has been active since 2013.

The website guides parents on understanding the signs of autism. It also explains which steps to take after a child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Other features include applying for Medicaid waivers, providing special education support and applying for Supplemental Security Income.

Now, parents can quickly and easily access the website to find out more about how to care for an autistic child or a child with a developmental disability.

These two websites are extremely important in addressing children who have special needs and those needing a loving home. It’s comforting to know that the state has provided an online presence that gives parents and caregivers the tools they need to care for these children.

Online: www.americanpress.com

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