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LOUISIANA

Louisiana

State Recovery Act Website: http://www.stimulus.la.gov/

Louisiana's state Recovery Act website scored 16 out of 100 possible points (ranking 46th) on Good Jobs First's updated 51-state study of state stimulus websites entitled Show Us the Stimulus (Again). The state earned points for breaking down stimulus allocations into broad and narrow categories, and providing project descriptions and dollar amount.

For detailed scoring information, see the Louisiana appendix of Show Us the Stimulus (Again).

Coordination & Oversight

There is no comprehensive state stimulus plan linked from the website. Gov. Bobby Jindal has publicly announced that he does not intend to designate a stimulus "czar" but has named Paul Rainwater, the state hurricane recovery chief, as a lead coordinator of funds, working with cabinet agencies.  Rainwater has a history of working as a legislative advisor and in private industry in Louisiana, and is in disputes with OMB and FEMA over hurricane recovery appropriations.

Policy Debates

Gov. Jindal stands in firm opposition to the Obama Administration's stimulus package on ideological grounds, but like many GOP governors he has begrudgingly accepted most of the money. Jindal has resisted the Medicaid and unemployment insurance funds. The state objects to the Medicaid funding formula which it claims is penalizing Louisiana for its relative fiscal health over the past few years, and is therefore seeking an exemption. The irony of this request is that it hinges on federal sympathy for the argument that Louisiana is being harmed by the billions of dollars it is already receiving in aid from the federal government. Two Medicaid programs to which Jindal specifically objects are the Transitional Medical Assistance program and the "disproportionate share" program. Alan Levine, Secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals is working with Louisiana's U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu on a campaign to get Congress to reconsider the Medicaid funding formula. Levine is also reaching out to health-care providers to enlist their support.

As he spent weeks touring Louisiana, Jindal was criticized for participating in photo-ops with local officials where he presented over-sized checks which include hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal stimulus money. Despite expressing his strong opposition to the stimulus on the national stage, at the local level Jindal seemed to be taking credit for the funds.

State Democratic lawmakers were unsuccessful in their attempt to override Gov. Jindal's decision to reject $98 million of stimulus funded unemployment benefits. Democrats hoped to use the stimulus funds to expand the number of people eligible for benefits and modernize state unemployment insurance policy. However, Gov. Jindal and most state Republican lawmakers argued that eligibility for these stimulus funds required a change in state policy that would lead to higher unemployment taxes for businesses after the stimulus funds expire.

Under President Obama's leadership, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will now consider shovel-ready projects to redevelop "demolished or vacant properties" eligible to receive stimulus funds for housing. Previously, under the Bush Administration, HUD officials only considered shovel-ready projects that had been through foreclosure as a result of the national financial downturn. U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu campaigned to include specific hurricane housing recovery in the ARRA, but was unsuccessful.  According to Landrieu, "The foreclosure rate from the financial collapse wasn't great for us in Louisiana, but the foreclosure rate from Mother Nature was quite startling." Louisiana has a large number of properties in disrepair since suffering major damage in 2005 from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These projects will now be eligible to receive a portion of the $2 billion in stimulus funds dedicated to housing aid.

Some controversy surrounds the state's allocation of transportation and infrastructure funds provided by the Recovery Act.  The Louisiana Asphalt Pavement Association publicly objected to the selection of "priority" projects by the state, arguing that only very large jobs designed for large contractors were being approved. The LAPA is also advocating for fix-it first approaches for much of the state's (still) hurricane-ravaged roads, rather than new projects.

The City of New Orleans, like many larger cities nationwide, claims that it is not receiving its fair share of stimulus funds in comparison to rural areas. This stance is compounded by the city's claim that it still has not received all of the hurricane recovery funds it was promised; the result of this is a general muddling of pre-existing need for economic recovery in the area. The Lower Ninth Ward remains a symbol in this recovery battle as advocates claim it is being failed by the Recovery Act.

Significant controversy arose in the state around the February 12 announcement made by U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao that he would break with other Republicans and support the stimulus plan in solidarity with his New Orleans constituency.  He later reversed his vote on the stimulus at the last minute under pressure from the GOP.  In response, a group of African-American ministers and their supporters instigated a recall initiative.  The group is called the Recall Anh Cao Committee.

Last updated on: 27 January, 2010

Quick Facts

Population:
4,410,796

Median Household Income:
$40,926

Unemployment Rate:
7.8%

Poverty Rate:
18.6%

Estimated Recovery Act Funding:
$3.6 billion

Watchdog Groups

Louisiana Budget Project

Resources

Louisiana Budget Project, Federal Stimulus Dollars for Louisiana, April 2009; online here.

Community Innovators Lab @ MIT: Louisiana Stimulus Matrix; online here.

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