- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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June 22

The Lake Charles American Press on a government watchdog group calling Louisiana congressman Steve Scalise a ‘Taxpayer Super Hero’:

Louisiana congressman Steve Scalise was one of just 11 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to be rated a “Taxpayer Super Hero” by the government watchdog group the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste in its recently updated 2017 Congressional Ratings.



Congratulations to Scalise, a Republican, who is still recovering from last year’s shooting, for his outstanding voting record. Scalise is also the House majority whip.

The group scrutinized the voting records of all 535 members of Congress to hold lawmakers accountable for their votes.

While Scalise was the only member of the Louisiana congressional delegation to score a perfect 100 percent in the ratings, four of the five others were rated as “Taxpayer Heroes.”

Southwest Louisiana’s own congressman, Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre, was among the “Taxpayer Heroes,” with a 95 percent rating. Other Louisiana representatives listed as “Taxpayer Heroes” were Mike Johnson, with a score of 96; Garret Graves, 94; and Mack Abraham, 95. They are all Republicans.

The only Democrat in the Louisiana congressional delegation, Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, scored a 2017 rating of just 2, and was listed as “Hostile” to taxpayers.

Both of Louisiana’s Republican senators, John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, were rated as “Taxpayer Heroes.” Cassidy had a 2017 score of 85, and Kennedy’s was 89.

“As president of CCAGW, I applaud these Taxpayer Super Heroes for their commitment to helping President Trump cut wasteful spending and taxes and make government more accountable to taxpayers,” Thomas A. Schatz wrote in the group’s newsletter. “These elected officials are determined to restore America to a sensible and sustainable fiscal path.”

“These Ratings measure the first session of the current Congress, highlighting a total of 93 votes in the House of Representatives and 27 votes in the Senate, covering a range of issues from Obamacare and the Trump Tax cuts to overregulation,” reads the newsletter.

Online: http://www.americanpress.com/

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June 26

The Courier of Houma on possible changes for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that were put forth by U.S. Rep. Garret Graves:

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves deserves recognition for taking aim at a mighty federal bureaucracy.

After years of watching the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, any south Louisiana resident might give up hope of ever seeing the agency functioning efficiently and with purpose for the good of the people and the environment.

But Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican who represents parts of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, has studied the corps, put forth a plan for improving its ability to perform its duties and is even meeting with some success.

At its nucleus, Graves’ effort would shift many of the corps’ non-military duties away from it and into the Interior or Transportation departments - places that make a lot more sense for responsibilities such as overseeing flood protection and maintaining navigable waterways.

“We need our Department of Defense focusing on national security threats like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and terrorists - not on wetlands permits,” Graves said in a news release. “The current organizational structure of the Corps of Engineers and our nation’s critical water resources mission - hurricane protection, coastal restoration, flood control, ports and waterways - needs to be compatible with the agency’s mission and a priority of the cabinet secretary. The current structure is neither and the decades of delays and skyrocketing project costs have resulted.”

That is true. And, Graves has gotten some buy-in from the Trump administration, which included his ideas in its plan to restructure parts of the federal government.

Any change to the corps that makes it more responsive to the people and agencies that rely on its work is welcome, particularly here where we have seen such delay and waste in trying to improve our coastal defenses.

The Army should, as Graves points out, be focused on national defense, not issuing permits for levees or repeatedly studying wetlands issues.

Removing those duties from the Department of Defense will allow the Army to commit its valuable resources to jobs more properly within its field and allow other departments to give the issues the corps has been overseeing the attention they deserve.

This move makes good, common sense. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a target of frequent critique in south Louisiana. Perhaps a re-organization is just what the agency needs to embrace a new commitment to its critical mission.

Online: http://www.houmatoday.com/

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June 26

The Advocate says Louisiana deserves better than the sales tax extension that the Legislature just passed:

There was euphoria at the State Capitol at the adjournment of the Legislature, in more or less continuous session since February.

“The state needed this,” said one of the exhausted legislative warriors, Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin.

No, the state deserves better.

In passing a seven-year temporary sales tax, legislators missed out on an opportunity to make Louisiana’s tax system more balanced, more stable and more fair.

Over the past two and a half years, lawmakers stiffed their taxpayers during seven special sessions, each costing $60,000 a day. The first six ended the same way: with legislators kicking the can down the road. This time, in approving a seven-year “temporary” sales tax, lawmakers punted the can down the road.

In the short term, the deal will provide some predictability for state finances.

But the downsides of these last months will become clearer over the long haul.

One consequence of a seven-year increase in sales tax is precisely that: Louisiana appears to be likely to keep its unfortunate distinction of being the state with the highest sales tax rates in the country, when you count state and local collections. Building a better tax system has, so far, proven beyond this Legislature’s abilities.

The budget deal was reached in large part by default: Lawmakers rejected tax reforms, including a revision of the state income tax that could have raised more revenue and lowered tax rates.

Legislators welcomed net increase in income tax caused by the federal law enacted by Congress, which caused a lowering of the state deduction for IRS taxes paid. Instead of a well-thought-out reform at the state level, they just took what the feds wrought. But a federal tax bill passed by Republicans in Washington may someday be erased by Democrats, yanking that windfall from the state.

Budget cuts, too, are part of the equation. With renewal of the odd number, 0.45 cents on a dollar sale, the cuts are apparently manageable for the Edwards administration, but the arguments over what the state’s real needs are was resolved on a split-the-difference basis that does not reflect long-term planning.

And finally, this compromise did not resolve the bitterness of the disputes over money. Members of the House, in particular, will find it harder than ever to seek common ground coming into future sessions. That’s a predicament not easily quantified, but it’s the new reality in the State Capitol.

Online: http://www.theadvocate.com/

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