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Monday, May 22nd, 2023

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


     Sometimes, you just want to roll down your car window and let out a scream. No, not because someone is passing you in road rage. The kind of wrath I’m talking about is the outrageous spending that takes place in many agencies of Louisiana state government.  Here is what has gotten my dander up. US News and World Report just released their state rankings. Where is Louisiana? Right where it was last year. Dead last.

     Here are the various rankings by US News. Crime and corrections ranked number 50. The economy ranked number 50. Infrastructure rank number 49, natural environment ranked number 49, education ranked number 46, and opportunity ranked number 48. Really makes you proud, doesn’t it?

     Now here’s how some agencies in state government can really rub salt into the wounds.  Spend, spend, spend.  In fact, certain state agencies are spending your tax dollars like drunken sailors. Want a few examples?  Here you go.

     There is a state board that oversees private security firms whose employees really know how to rip off state funds.  By state law, the board is charged with hiring and keep an eye on an executive secretary. Supposedly I said.  But the board failed miserably in their job. The former secretary bilked the agency for almost $300,000 by compensating himself overtime pay even though there was no legal justification for him to do so.   There also is a list of questionable legal expenses charged, as well as payments to relatives.    

     But hey, it gets much worse.  After firing the guy who swindled all this money, the Board of Private Security Examiners hired a new executive secretary. Not only did she illegally paid herself unauthorized expenses, but she was also arrested on felony drug charges after she was caught by police selling drugs. No, I didn’t make this up.

     Now I know that a few employees will sometimes cross the legal line.  But here’s my question. Where was the oversight?  Where was the board that hired these employees? Weren’t they supposed to be keeping an eye on these people?  Or were they just rubberstamps?  And where were the state auditors who let these state employees run wild for years? The board itself should be abolished, and the state police should handle the licensing and oversite of private security firms in the future.

     Then there is the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state created organization that Senator John Kennedy has called the worst agency in state government. Because of its negligence of years back, Louisiana policyholders have been billed over $1 Billion to pay off Citizens’ debt. That’s Billion with a B. 

     The agency used to be housed in a small Baton Rouge office.  Not anymore.  It now wants the high life, and has signed a long lease at the Galleria, the plush 21-story office building located near Interstate 10 and Causeway Boulevard in Jefferson Parish.  Citizens will occupy 21 thousand -square-foot space, more than twice what it needs, for another 125 months.  But these hardworking employees need perks.  Lots of perks. The lease includes a fitness center, food service, (and get this) even a car wash service.  And just because Louisiana policyholders are picking up the tab, who could begrudge Citizens’ employees from receiving a free car wash? Right?

     No other state in the south has a public property insurance company of last resort that is anywhere close to Citizens.  The spending on salaries and other perks are way out of line.      Citizens needs to be abolished, and a new method put in place that protects Louisiana policyholders, not bilks them every month.  All of our surrounding states, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi, have a much more efficient system, and property rates are much lower.

     These are just a few examples of outlandish spending in state government.  I could offer many more.  Legislative oversite has been lax. Controlling all this unnecessary spending should be a top priority for the next governor and legislature.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com. You can also listen to his regular podcast at www.datelinelouisiana.com.






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