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20.6.05

GOP senators (mostly) for better education; Democrats favor big government

Legislative Republicans and Democrats showed their true colors in their decisions concerning separate amendments to the state operating budget – Republicans want to spend efficiently and give educators at all levels pay raises, while Democrats want to use educators to grab more of the peoples’ money.

The amendments, which differed only in the breadth and amount of the raises (one including school support personnel, the other not), called for cuts of enhancements (that is, money added to current spending) across the board of 1.36 percent from discretionary funding from the general fund. During the debate, a number of Democrats floated fictitious arguments, which were dealt with by the three GOP sponsors, Sens. Jay Dardenne, Tom Schedler, and Craig Romero.

FICTION: Sen. Francis Heitmeier said the removal of $20 million that would have gone to local school boards would punish education.
FACT: The $20 million simply would have been rerouted into salaries away from bureaucracy. Already a resolution has been passed requesting that 65 percent of funding for education go into teachers’ salaries; Louisiana only gives out about 60 percent.

FICTION: Sen. Robert Adley claimed the cuts would be catastrophic on the “small interests,” and that it would make legislators look bad when cuts came in those areas.
FACT: The cuts would be minimal at best. For example, the Department of Transportation and Development would have lost exactly $24,900 in newly-added funds. Does Adley serious want to argue this would hurt the little guy across the state? And if Adley truly is worried, he could have conducted stringent oversight of the state bureaucracy to ensure this didn’t happen, and he could have transferred funding from some of his own pet projects in his district to make up the difference. That would have given him great press instead of showing what he really is, an obstructionist.

FICTION: Sen. Ben Nevers said the reduced enhancements would “destroy” the charity hospital system in the state.
FACT: The total reduction there would have been $10 million, or, averaged out per hospital per day, $274. A hospital’s critical care unit could save that much alone each day if nurses were less wasteful in their use of medical supplies.

FICTION: Some Democrats complained that this would remove $13 million that could be used to reduce the unfunded accrued liability of state pension plans, and that was fiscally reckless.
FACT: Curious how this is the first time we’ve heard this from some of them on this issue. But state government took a voluntary 1.75 percent cut on all funds, not just on enhancements, earlier this year, and there wasn’t any squawking coming out these guys or state government. And now it’s fiscally reckless to ask for a 1.36 percent cut on just discretionary enhancements? One cannot hide the fact that, given the inefficiencies in Louisiana’s state government, the consequences of these cuts would have been insignificant to zero.

FICTION: Some Democrats complained how bringing up these amendments was “divisive” and “partisan.”
FACT: Getting along and going along with a tax-and-spend mentality has gotten this state into a fiscal quagmire (Heitmeier admitted that the state government had a projected $2.7 billion deficit looming over the next three years). If a little rancor could get pay raises, which everybody says they’re for, without making the fiscal picture worse, then bring it on.

FICTION: The top demagogue was Sen. Joe McPherson, who thundered about the amendments were an “attempt to get favorable press,” that for secondary teachers it was only $19 a week, that teachers nor professors asked for this amendment, that its supporters “have never supported teachers,” that we had no reason to believe they were sincere, and that the contemplated raises weren’t meaningful.
FACT: So who’s being divisive now? If McPherson wasn’t so busy every second trying to pick taxpayers’ pockets to funnel money to his fellow nursing home owners, he’d have noticed many of us educators would have wanted this amendment. McPherson simply wants to have as much control over as much money has he can lay his hands on, and certainly a cut in enhancements doesn’t fit that agenda. He could care less about teachers; he just wants to use them as pawns to fulfill his own big government agenda. There’s a psychological term used to describe an attitude where people see in others their own attitudes and inadequacies called “projection,” and McPherson’s name is next to its dictionary definition on this issue. His remarks tell much more about his views than those of the amendment’s sponsors.

The intransigency of the Senate Democrats to introducing greater efficiency, safeguarding the people’s resources, and to any genuine interest in educator pay raises, was epitomized when, during these remarks, several refused to let Dardenne ask them questions, so intent were they on trying to demagogue, create straw man arguments and false issues, and to engage in diversionary tactics to deflect attention from these attitudes of theirs. Dardenne eventually took the floor and very humorously began to ask himself questions dealing with the misperceptions the Democrat speakers had tried to propagate, ending with “Sen. Dardenne, why won’t anybody let you ask questions?” “I don’t know.”

Predictably, both amendments failed 10-27 with the same Republicans voting for them each time. The usual pro-big government/anti-taxpayer RINOs defected, including Sen. Clo Fontenot, who reaffirmed to the body in remarks before the first vote that he didn’t care what was good for the state, it was only his district that he cared about (because it gave pay raises to college faculty and he hardly had any in his district: “I’m here to take care of my district”), and Sen. Sherri Smith Cheek, because she (who has spent practically all of her working life in government) and McPherson are peas in a pod when it comes to loving big government.

This debate and the votes made it very clear that (most) Senate Republicans seriously do look out for the people, and educators, first, while Democrats loyalty lies primarily with government. The silence of Gov. Kathleen Blanco and teachers’ unions also spoke volumes. Pressure by either (and it was public knowledge a day before that these amendments were coming) perhaps could have tipped the balance. They also join their legislative Democrat brethren who use teachers as pawns to feed their appetites to assert greater control over peoples’ lives through confiscating their resources.

It’s really very simple. If they believe that higher teachers’ salaries improve education, then those who failed to support this amendment acted hypocritically, cannot be said to genuinely support better education, and are more attentive to other interests than those of the people. If nothing else, this has exposed them as what they truly are, which is what they didn’t want you to know.

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