The money would cover 53 projects spanning 11 state agencies. It would be the first wide-ranging bond issue since 1999. The $349 million is a lot of dough, but it's only a fraction of the $6 billion in requests made to Santa by agency heads.

The criticality of the recommended projects is subjective, but infrastructure needs at several correctional facilities are no doubt vital. Still, given that the Legislature took so long to find financing for state Capitol repairs, the commission's wish list may go ignored. One item on the list that's sure to draw fire is $40 million to finish the American Indian Culture Center and Museum in Oklahoma City.

Philosophical objections to capital bond issues by Republican lawmakers have always struck us as strange, considering that most people and most lawmakers borrow money to buy homes and cars. In this season of giving, we're optimistic that legislators will at least consider improving the prisons that their anti-reform policies keep filling with new inmates.



Jack Johnson is getting paid $5 million by the Columbus Blue Jackets this year. The 27-year-old defenseman has amassed over $18 million in a nine-year career, and signed a seven-year, $30.5 million deal signed with the Los Angeles Kings back in 2011.

Johnson is filing for bankruptcy.

He owes more than $10 million in debts, has assets of less than $50,000, and according to a Columbus Dispatch report has been sued at least three times for $6 million.

The root of Johnsons financial calamity appears to be his parents, Tina and Jack Sr.

The Dispatch released its report this morning, after beginning its earlier this spring. Some of the details are truly heartbreaking.

Tina Johnson borrowed at least $15 million in her sons name against his future earnings, sources told The Dispatch, taking out a series of high-interest loans -- perhaps as many as 18 -- from nonconventional lenders that resulted in a series of defaults.

Johnsons parents didnt just borrow money from their son. The report alleges the couple also took advantage in a litany of other ways.

Johnsons parents allegedly each bought a car, spent more than $800,000 on upgrades to the Manhattan Beach property and traveled, often to see him play NHL games for the Kings and Blue Jackets.

The most telling quote comes from a source who recounted a dialogue between Johnson and his parents, when he confronted them about debt collectors calling in regard to defaulted loans.

Jack would ask (his parents) questions: Whats this? What are these guys calling about? a source said. And they would tell him not to worry about it, just worry about playing hockey.

Johnson has hired a new attorney, severed ties with his family, and is attempting to rebuild and find his way out of the mess created. His bankruptcy hearing is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles in late January.



Millions of tax dollars are at stake in Tuesdays fire district elections.

Fire districts in Greenburgh and Yorktown are seeking voter approval in four referendums to borrow up to $3.3 million.

Whats at stake in Yorktown: The Yorktown Heights Fire District wants to borrow $1.5 million to renovate its station on Locksley Road. The station, which was last expanded in the 1980s, needs a new roof and more space for firefighters. It currently houses four pieces of apparatus and the volunteer departments 1930s engine.

The project will include construction of a second floor with a kitchen and space for firefighters to sleep during snow emergencies. It would also have room for physical conditioning equipment, if the department later decides to invest in the machines.

We want to turn the fire station into a fire house, said Board of Commissioners Chairman Arthur Orneck.

Whos opposed: Yorktown resident Brian Carroll opposed the districts failed referendum for $1.7 million in June to build a new station along Route 134. Carroll, a member of Yorktown Homeowners for Fiscal Responsibility, wants the district to transfer money from the $1.1 million reserve account for the proposed Route 134 station to repair the Locksley Road station.

They need to repurpose the money weve paid in taxes and devote it to the station that needs to be fixed, Carroll said.

Whats at stake in Greenburgh: The Greenville Fire District wants to borrow $1.8 million in three separate proposals.

Greenville is asking voters to borrow $950,000 for a new firetruck, $285,000 to repair and renovate fire headquarters, and $550,000 to pay for court-mandated property-tax refunds.

The fire district decided to seek voter permission to borrow the refunds after it was notified by the town that is should expect an unusually high refund bill in 2015, following an onslaught of tax claims in advance of the towns revaluation project thats underway.

What critics are saying: Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner says hes opposed to having the fire district borrow money to pay for the property tax refunds. Instead, hed rather see the district make cuts to its $9 million operation.

I dont think its a good idea to borrow, said Feiner. They are just passing on the cost to the future. Its better to pay as you go.

What supporters say: A call to Greenville Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Robert Bruckenthal was returned by Edgemont civic leader Robert Bernstein, who supports the borrowing plan. He said it was prudent, due to the one-time increase in tax refunds. The amount to be borrowed -- $550,000 -- is about five times what the district typically pays in tax refunds and represents about 5 percent of the departments annual budget.

It makes no sense to levy a tax increase for that one-time extraordinary expense, Bernstein said.

Cast your ballot: In Yorktown, polls are open from 6 to 9 pm at fire headquarters at Commerce Street and Hanover Road. Greenvilles polls are open from 2 to 9 pm at 711 Central Park Ave.

Twitter: @davidmckay415



No, you cant get a loan to pay for a prostitute in Thailand. And seeking assistance to evict a polecat above a ceiling in the US is going to be futile.

Australia is taking steps to curb such absurd requests that its traveling citizens have lodged with Australian embassies and consulates around the world.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced the new measures Wednesday to underscore consular services as a last resort and to promote a stronger culture of self-reliance and personal responsibility in the traveling public.

These measures include a new policy of providing minimal consular services to Australians who willfully, repeatedly or negligently get themselves into trouble. Charging for the consular help is also something the government is considering, she said.

Our consular staff are not there to pay for the repairs to your jet ski; theyre not there to pay your hotel bill; theyre not there to lend you a laptop or to provide you with office space in the embassy for you to do your work, Bishop said, listing actual requests that Australian embassies have refused.

At the embassy in Bangkok - Australias busiest - an Australian walked in with a prostitute and was refused a loan to pay for services already provided, said Anita Downey, a senior counselor official at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Such requests are common at that embassy, she said.

Other locations that frequently get outlandish requests include Los Angeles, Bali, Manila and Dubai, she said.

Diplomats have fielded requests for an armored car, help removing a polecat above the ceiling of a house and intervention to prevent payment of a speeding fine, senior foreign ministry official Justin Brown said.

Other examples: Australians who were evacuated from civil unrest in Egypt in a government-chartered Qantas airliner in 2011 expected frequent flier miles for trip. Some Australians evacuated from the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia requested first-class seats, DFAT records show.

Australians are avid travelers. With a population of just 24 million, they made 9.2 million overseas trips last year. That same year, the foreign affairs department assisted 15,000 of them.

Brown said the United States, Canada and New Zealand embassies were experiencing similar escalating expectations from its citizens.

At most of our posts there are people we would describe colloquially as serial pests who are constantly bouncing back into the embassy because theyve run out of money or theyve got some sort of other personal problem and they often come to the embassy and the consular teams expecting us to solve their problems for them, Brown said.

Downey said 20 percent of emergency loans made to Australians overseas are never repaid.