Louisiana's roads and bridges are beset by dwindling dollars, pressing needs and the lack of any sweeping solutions in the near future. Although there's an estimated $12.3 billion backlog of transportation infrastructure projects, nearly $91 million is set to be diverted to the state police and other services. Officials at the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development are scrambling to avoid the loss of federal dollars. Motorists currently pay 38.4 cents per gallon in Louisiana in state and federal taxes. That includes 16 cents for rank-and-file state projects and 4 cents for 16 special projects. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley says the diversion of funds to the state police is outrageous at a time when highway officials are struggling for dollars.
Governor Bobby Jindal's health care spending plan for next year relies on more than $400 million in tax changes uncertain to win passage from state lawmakers. Lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee were told Wednesday, the governor's proposal still has gaps in the Medicaid program and provides less for the private managers of the LSU hospitals than they say they need. Without the tax change money, the Department of Health and Hospitals told the committee those privatization deals would take a $330 million cut. Department Secretary Kathy Kliebert said that type of reduction could jeopardize the contractual deals and lessen health services for the poor and uninsured. The Appropriations Committee is conducting a department-by-department review of Jindal's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The use of cellphone tracking devices by law enforcement agencies has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to sue law enforcement agencies that the organization claims is concealing their possession and use from the public. The ACLU has identified 48 agencies in 20 states and the District of Columbia that own StingRay devices, but the organization says because many law enforcement agencies are secretive about the use of StingRay, it is unknown how many departments utilize this technology. The ACLU describes the StingRay device as a "highly intrusive form of surveillance," which mimics a cellphone tower, forcing all cellphones within its radius to send it communication and location information. A staff attorney with the ACLU said the device interacts with a person's cellphone without their permission, forcing the phone to give away data about them, their location, and their calls and text messages regardless of whether the phone is in their car, in their pocket or in their bedroom. Police maintain that cellphone data can help solve crimes, track fugitives or abducted children or even foil a terror attack.
Despite criticism about the budgeting maneuver, Governor Bobby Jindal proposes to divert even larger sums of state gasoline tax revenue away from road work next year to pay for state police operations. Lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee learned Tuesday that Jindal's budget recommendation for next year would shift $72 million in the gas tax money to cover state trooper costs, an increase of more than $5 million over this year. It would boost the amount of money steered away from road and bridge work to $313 million over Jindal's two terms in office. Lawmakers have complained about the fund diversion, saying drivers expect gas tax dollars to pay for road improvements. But they haven't blocked the transfers. Louisiana has a $12 billion backlog in road and bridge work.
Half of Obamacare customers who received premium subsidies will end up owing the IRS an average of $800.00 during tax season. According to a new study, 50 percent of Americans who purchased taxpayer-subsidized health insurance on an Obamacare exchange will have to repay the federal government. Because the Obamacare subsidy system requires customers to estimate their income for the upcoming year, those who end up earning more than expected will end up getting more subsidies than appropriate. This will leave them owing nearly $800.00 to the IRS on average. Because the subsidies are only offered to those with relatively low incomes, owing the IRS several hundred dollars could create a hardship.
Winn Parish Sheriff's Department Arrest Report:
On Friday, March 13, the Winn Parish Sheriff's Department arrested Daylon Garner, of Winnfield, and Billy James Brown of Goldonna. Both were arrested on a warrant for failure to appear. Also arrested was James Phillip West, of New South Wales, Australia, for trespassing. On Sunday, March 15, Roger Boyette, of Tullos, was arrested for first-offense DWI and improper lane use. On Tuesday, March 17, deputies arrested Karen Sue Stroud, of Montgomery, for theft. Also arrested Tuesday was Kenneth Bratton, of Winnfield, for criminal trespassing.
Preschool roundup for the 2015 through 2016 school year is scheduled for Friday, April 17, at the Winn Parish Civic Center on the Winn Parish Fairgrounds. Registration will be for Atlanta, Calvin, and Dodson High Schools, and the Winnfield Kindergarten School. Students must be four years old on or before September 30, and parents are asked to bring their child's original birth certificate, Social Security card, up-to-date immunization records, proof of residence, proof of income, and the child for testing. For more information, call Pine Belt Head Start at 628-3139.The Winn Ranger District of the Kisatchie National Forest will hold the 13th Annual Youth Fishing Derby Saturday, June 13, at the Bombing Range Pond on Highway 84 West, near the Gum Springs Recreation Area. All children age two through twelve are invited to participate. The purpose of the derby is to provide a fun, exciting, and educational fishing experience to area youth. Each child that participates will receive a prize. For more information, contact the Winn Ranger District at 628-4664. The next meeting of the Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Board will be on Tuesday, April 14, at 9:00 a.m., at the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement Office, at 602 North Fifth Street in Baton Rouge. The public is invited to attend this meeting, and assistance will be provided to those who need special accommodations in order to attend this meeting. For more information, persons may call 225.342.1500
The Juanita Pharr Cancer Support Group meets on the first Friday of each month at 12:00 noon for a dutch treat meeting. All cancer survivors and caretakers are invited. There is a different meeting place each month, and persons may contact Maxine Godman for more information at 628-3858.