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 Press Releases

7/20/2017
Treasurer Ron Henson Announces $271.2 Million in Bond Commission Approvals

BATON ROUGE, LA - The State Bond Commission approved $271.2 million for projects statewide and more than $4 million in savings at its July meeting, according to State Treasurer Ron Henson.

"The infrastructure projects we approved today will help us improve roads, various utility systems and bridge safety in the state," said Treasurer Henson. "We also approved a large refinancing for the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority to receive tax benefits and free up funds to invest in other projects."

 

Among the individual projects approved were:

 

Allen Parish: $1.3 million in Sales Tax Bonds for the Town of Kinder for constructing and improving streets.

 

Ascension Parish: $25 million in Revenue Bonds for the Parish Council to fund a debt service reserve fund.

 

Bossier Parish: $13 million in Taxable Utilities Revenue Bonds for the City of Bossier DEQ Project for constructing, acquiring and improving public works including sewer treatment facilities.

 

Catahoula Parish: $1.9 million in Sales Tax Bonds for the Town of Jonesville for the hardsurfacing, rehabilitation and resurfacing of streets.

 

Concordia Parish: $2.5 million in Certificates of Indebtedness for the Hospital Service District No. 1 to pay various fees related to the construction of a new hospital and purchasing land.

 

DeSoto Parish: $5 million in Revenue Refunding Bonds for the DeSoto Parish Police Jury International Paper Company Project to refinance bonds, providing $2.8 million in gross savings.

 

East Baton Rouge Parish: $8.5 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the Central Community School Board Central Community School System to refinance bonds, providing $254,936 in gross savings.

 

East Baton Rouge Parish: $4.5 million in Sales Tax Refunding Bonds for the Central Community School Board Central Community School System to refinance bonds, providing $140,981 in gross savings.

 

Jackson Parish: $150,000 in Utilities Revenue Bonds for the Town of Chatham for constructing and acquiring improvements and replacements to the sewerage component of the combined waterworks, sewerage and natural gas systems including equipment and fixtures. The project includes a $665,000 Community Development Block Grant for a total of $815,000.

 

Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes: $133 million in Toll Revenue Bonds for the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission to construct, acquire and improve bridge rails and safety shoulders and fund a debt service reserve fund.

 

Lafayette Parish: $8.5 million in Recreational Facilities Sales Tax Revenue Refunding Bonds for the City of Youngsville, Youngsville Sales Tax District No. 1 to refinance bonds, providing $404,895 in gross savings.

 

Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority: $24.7 million in Deepwater Port Refunding Revenue Bonds for the LOOP LLC Project to restructure debt to continue to benefit from tax-exempt status and free up cash for other projects.

 

Louisiana Housing Corporation: $13 million in Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds (Volume Cap) for the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation and equipping of an 80-unit multifamily housing facility in New Orleans called the Capdau Home for the Aged.

 

Natchitoches Parish: $200,000 in Limited Tax Bonds for the Fire Protection District No. 4 for acquiring, constructing and improving fire protection facilities and equipment.

 

St. Charles Parish: $15 million in Limited Tax Bonds for the St. Charles Parish Council for constructing, acquiring, extending and improving levees, facilities and structures associated with outer flood protection systems.

 

St. Tammany Parish: $12 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the Parishwide School District No. 12 to refinance bonds, providing $423,178 in gross savings.

 

Tensas Parish: $1.2 million in Taxable Water Revenue Bonds for the Lake Bruin Waterworks District No. 1 (LDH Program) for constructing and acquiring improvements, extensions and replacements to the drinking water system including equipment and fixtures.

 

Vermilion Parish: $1.7 million in Sales Tax Bonds for the Hospital Service District No. 2 for constructing repairs and improvements to Abbeville General Hospital including mechanical improvements and funding a reserve.

6/26/2017
State Introduces LA ABLE Savings Plan

BATON ROUGE - State Treasurer Ron Henson and the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA), a program under the Board of Regents, today announced the launch of a new 529A saving plan to help individuals with disabilities save money in order to gain more independence, maintain their health and have a better quality of life.

 

"Louisiana families who are struggling to provide a better life for children with disabilities will now be able to invest money tax free to pay for a variety of qualified disability expenses," said Treasurer Henson.

 

The Louisiana Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, known as LA ABLE, allows tax -free deposits to an ABLE account, so long as the funds are used on qualified expenses such as education, housing, transportation, employment training, health and wellness - to name a few.

 

"LA ABLE is Louisiana's new program that provides Louisiana families with the ability to help those with disabilities in paying for necessary expenses," said Senator Dan Claitor. "Individuals who invest in LA ABLE accounts can make tax-exempt deposits as long as funds are expended on approved services."

 

Family and friends can now adequately save money, without worrying about whether dollars in the 529A account will be counted against them when determining eligibility for federal and state benefits programs. An account owner can save up to $14,000 per year and continue receiving Medicaid and Social Security. If at any time the balance in the account meets or exceeds $100,000, SSI will be suspended. Once the balance decreases, those benefits will be reinstated.

 

The sponsor of the original legislation, Representative Franklin Foil, said "The LA ABLE accounts are intended to help families save money tax-free to assist with qualified disability expenses, much like the state's START program provides a mechanism to save for college expenses."

 

The State Treasurer has selected a number of short, intermediate and long-term investment options for the LA ABLE Program, thus allowing individuals to choose the option that best suits their needs.

 

"The Treasury is working with Vanguard to oversee investments in LA ABLE," said Treasurer Henson. "The program will be structured very similarly to Louisiana's START Saving Program, which was ranked number one in the nation for investment performance."

 

The LA ABLE 529A Program will be administered by LOSFA on behalf of the Louisiana Tuition Trust Authority (LATTA). LOSFA will be responsible for receiving and disbursing the funds using processes similar to those established for the START 529 college saving plan, which the agency also administers on behalf of the LATTA.

 

"We are so excited about the launch of LA ABLE and the savings opportunities that will now be available for families with disability related expenses," said LOSFA Executive Director Dr. Sujuan Boutte'. "The implementation of this program would not have been possible without the assistance and collaboration of many dedicated individuals and groups - our legislative leaders, the members of the ABLE Account Authority, Board of Regents Administration and our staff who worked diligently with all parties to make this possible," Boutte' added.

 

"The newly created LA ABLE program reaches out to serve individuals with critical needs and provides them with a pathway to direct their resources toward solutions," said Commissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Joseph C. Rallo.  "At the end of the day," he continued, "it is a marvelous example of creating a public program to meet a very worthwhile private need."

 

The Arc of Louisiana, an organization that promotes improving services available to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has also anxiously been awaiting the launch of this program. Kelly Monroe, The Arc's Executive Director, said, "The Arc of Louisiana, The Arc of Baton Rouge and People First of Louisiana have been working with Representative Franklin Foil and Senator Dan Claitor on passing the Louisiana ABLE Act since 2013. In July of 2014 it passed with 68 legislators co-authoring the bill. For the first time in history, people with disabilities will be able to work and save for their future without jeopardizing their supports and services which will lead to greater independence. We are very excited to finally see this come together for individuals with disabilities and families."

 

Sharon Hennessey, Executive Director of People First of Louisiana and Chairperson of the LATTA's ABLE Advisory Board said, "The ABLE Act has made it possible for people with disabilities to save money without jeopardizing their services.  Louisiana has recognized the value of this and has established the LA ABLE program. This is a very important step towards independence for people with disabilities in Louisiana."

To learn more and to open a LA ABLE account, visit www.able.osfa.la.gov.

6/16/2017
Treasurer Ron Henson Announces $175 Million in Bond Commission Approvals

 

BATON ROUGE, LA - The State Bond Commission approved $175 million for projects statewide and $5.4 million in savings at its June meeting, according to State Treasurer Ron Henson.

 

"The commission approved a variety of projects for local governments statewide and put the infrastructure in place should it be necessary to take out another short-term budgetary loan next year," said Treasurer Henson. "We are closely monitoring the state's cash flow and will bring any plans back before the commission before making any moves in the market."

 

Among the individual projects approved were:

 

Iberia Parish: $22.5 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the Iberia Parish School Board, Parishwide School District, resulting in $513,000 in gross savings.

 

Lafayette Parish: $75 million in Sales Tax Revenue Bonds for the Lafayette Parish School Board for constructing and acquiring capital improvements including playgrounds, school buildings and related facilities.

 

LaSalle Parish: $22,000 in Limited Tax Certificates of Indebtedness for the Recreation District No. 22 to equip recreational facilities.

 

Louisiana Community Development Authority: $2 million in Revenue Bonds for the Livingston Recreation District No. 2 for acquiring, designing, constructing and developing public parks, playgrounds and recreational properties and facilities.

 

Rapides Parish: $120,000 in Limited Tax Bonds for the Rapides Parish Police Jury, Fire Protection District No. 6 for acquiring, constructing, improving and maintaining fire protection facilities, vehicles and equipment.

 

Southern University and A&M College: $42 million in Taxable Refunding Bonds for the Board of Supervisors of Southern University and A&M College, resulting in $4.5 million in gross savings to acquire residence hall facilities and Intramural Faculties.

 

St. Bernard Parish: $4.2 million in Taxable Limited Tax Certificates of Indebtedness for the St. Bernard Parish Council for maintaining and operating fire protection facilities.

 

St. Tammany Parish: $14.5 million in General Obligation School Refunding Bonds for the St. Tammany Parish School Board, Parishwide School District No. 12, resulting in $351,000 in gross savings.

 

West Baton Rouge Parish: $15 million in Revenue Bonds for the West Baton Rouge Parish, Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission for the construction of a Chambering Yard.

 

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 Opinion Columns

7/24/2017
Deferred Comp Great Way for Public Employees to Supplement Retirement Savings

American workers are living and working longer and retiring at later ages. A national survey found that 25 percent of workers in the United States expect to stay on the job after they reach age 70 because of financial pressures. Let’s face it, middle-class workers remain on the job for a longer period of time due to rising health care premiums, increased living expenses, and stagnant retirement savings.

 

Most workers who were surveyed said they rely on the retirement plans offered at their jobs as their primary method for saving for retirement. Many, however, found it difficult to save for retirement even when an employer offered a variety of plans and savings options.

 

State government is one of the largest employers in Louisiana and requires civil service employees to participate in a defined benefit plan through the Louisiana State Employee Retirement System (LASERS).  Local government and other public employees likewise participate in defined benefit retirement systems. 

 

However, retirement benefits for a rank and file career public employee are modest and usually average from 50 percent up to 75 percent of your highest earning years. Without additional savings in the bank and no guaranteed cost of living adjustments, a percentage of your salary simply may not be enough.

 

There is a way to beef up retirement savings that is available to public employees called the Louisiana Government Deferred Compensation (Deferred Comp) Plan. It’s an optional program and is strictly voluntary but can help employees supplement their retirement income by making small but consistent contributions over time. I personally participate in Deferred Comp, and it provides a variety of benefits to public employees.

 

Deferred Comp is a 457 plan under IRS rules, which is another way of saying it provides some terrific tax advantages. There are both state and federal tax benefits for participating in the program, and some participants may qualify for a federal income tax credit (called the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit or Saver’s Credit) depending on their income and how much they contribute to the plan.

 

There are also a variety of investment options available in Deferred Comp. Participants can choose between a Traditional 457 plan or a Roth 457 plan, and earnings for both plans grow tax-free.

 

One of the program’s biggest benefits, in my opinion, is it offers payroll deductions to help make saving for retirement easy and automatic. According to the AARP, payroll deductions are one of the easiest ways for workers to put money away for retirement savings on a regular basis. 

 

A little over a quarter of state employees participate in the Deferred Comp program. I encourage more to take a look to see if the program is right for them. Even though starting early can make a huge difference in the amount of money available for retirement, there are special catch-up provisions available to older workers who are closer to retirement.

 

I recommend taking a good look at your projected retirement savings today to see if it will be enough or if supplemental savings will be needed. The tax and investment advantages of participating in Deferred Comp make it a perfect supplement to LASERS. For more information, visit www.louisianadcp.com.

6/26/2017
LA ABLE Program Can Help Louisiana Families Save for Disability-Related Expenses

In 2014, a federal law amended Section 529 of the IRS code to allow states to offer tax-free savings accounts to individuals who pay disability-related expenses. The federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act is considered to be one of the most important pieces of federal legislation benefiting individuals in the disabled community since the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Louisiana’s version of the program will be launched this summer and is possible because of state legislation spearheaded by Senator Dan Claitor and Representative Franklin Foil. Louisiana families who are struggling to provide a better life for children with disabilities will now be able to invest money tax free to pay for a variety of qualified disability expenses.

 

Families who care for loved ones with disabilities can set up tax free savings accounts to pay for health care and other expenses. LA ABLE will also help individuals with disabilities save money in order to gain more independence, maintain their health and have a better quality of life.

 

LA ABLE will operate in a similar way to the state’s START program that provides a mechanism for saving for college expenses. The program will allow tax-free deposits to an ABLE account as long as funds are used on qualified expenses such as education, housing, transportation, employment training, and health and wellness. The Office of Student Financial Aid will administer the LA ABLE program, and the State Treasury will oversee program investments.

 

Why is a program like LA ABLE so important to the disabled community? According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, there are an estimated 54 million people in the United States who live with a disability. The CDC reports that health care spending for individuals with disabilities makes up more than a quarter of health care expenses nationwide.

 

Although health care expenses for someone with a disability can average $11,637 a year nationwide, Louisiana’s costs can range from $12,213 to $18,674 depending on the disability and the individual. When taking into account employment, medical and other costs, families caring for a loved one with a disability can spend much more than that.

 

LA ABLE can be critical in helping defray the impact of these costs. Families will be able to save up to $14,000 a year tax free while continuing to receive Medicaid and Social Security benefits. This can be essential for families who want to save money without worrying if dollars will be counted against them when determining eligibility for federal and state benefits programs.

 

Research shows that access to affordable health care and appropriate services improves the quality of life and provides positive outcomes for disabled individuals. With LA ABLE, this will be a reality for many more Louisiana families.

5/22/2017
START Looking at Louisiana’s 529 Plan to Boost College Savings

When you think of funding for college, the first program that usually comes to mind is most likely TOPS, and understandably so. TOPS has been instrumental in giving Louisiana students access to higher education opportunities. But there’s another program in the state that may not get as much attention as TOPS but is equally successful in helping students and families plan ahead for college expenses.

 

It’s called the Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust Program (START), and it’s a 529 college savings plan designed to help families contend with the growing costs of educating their children after high school. States operate 529 plans under IRS rules to incentivize saving money for college expenses.

 

Parents, grandparents and individuals can open a START account with a $10 deposit. College students who want to benefit from the program can even open accounts for themselves in certain circumstances.

The tax advantages of opening a START account are numerous. When you make deposits into the program, the amount is deductible from the income you report on your state tax return up to $2,400 per account each year. If you are married and file a joint tax return, the amount you can deduct from your income increases to $4,800 per account.

 

Investment earnings on these deposits are tax-deferred while they remain in a START account. When withdrawals are made to pay for qualified expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, and books, they are exempt from state and federal taxes as well. Like an interest bearing checking account, anyone can make a deposit into an account, but the person who opened the account is the one who earns the interest.

One of the greatest benefits of START is what we call “earning enhancements.” This is where the state matches a portion of deposits into a START account by 2 percent to 14 percent based on an account owner’s income and the account category. The highest match of 14 percent is available to account owners with an income of $29,999 or less.

START has gone from 2,966 accounts and $3.9 million in total deposits in the 2000 Calendar Year to 56,204 accounts and more than $718 million in total assets by the close of the 2016 Calendar Year. This past Calendar Year, fixed income investments in the program earned a rate of return of 1.6 percent, and equity investments in START earned 4.58 percent to 18.3 percent depending on the investment option chosen.

 

START has performed so well over the years that SavingForCollege.com ranks it first of all 529 plans in the nation for 10-year performance. The program was also ranked in the Top 10 for 1-year, 3-year and 5-year performance.

 

I’ve only scratched the surface of the many benefits of the START Savings program. I encourage you to learn more about the program and boost your college savings goals by visiting www.startsaving.la.gov.

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