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22.12.11

LA chooses wisely to reward performance, not credentials

Wisely, Louisiana continues to shift its philosophy in delivery of elementary and secondary education from assumed ability to actual performance by its abjuring to reimburse districts for teachers certified under a national standard.

Over a decade ago, R.S. 17:426.1 made obligatory the provision of a $5,000 annual bonus for teachers that picked up a certification, using their own resources, from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. It required the expense of local school boards but invited state reimbursement, subject to appropriation. Until fiscal year 2010-11, that was forthcoming.

But as the state’s budget tightened, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Legislature decided not to fund the stipend, thereby passing the cost on to local school districts.

21.12.11

Election administration needs more efficiency, not money

Sec. of State Tom Schedler whines about how his office will need more money to conduct elections before the first half of next year is out. Instead, he needs to become proactive and start lobbying policy-makers to change Louisiana’s election code to reduce inefficiency and waste in the conduct of elections.

After having asserted that he foresaw a deficit in the operations of his department approaching a half million dollars for the rest of fiscal year 2011-12, Schedler further was disconcerted to learn that recent mid-year shortfalls meant $1.5 million was getting chopped from his budget, or less than two percent of the total. Since elections must go on, by all indications some time before Jun. 30 the sum of those totals must find its way back into the Department of State’s coffers. It must pay in total almost all expenses for elections with federal and/or state candidates and/or issues on them, half of many others, and a portion of most of the remainder. It also pays half of expenses regarding equipment storage sites, equipment, and drayage, and also pays portions of local elections full-time personnel as well as that for commissioners and their training.

But whether the money currently spent on elections should be is another matter. There are several statutory and procedural changes that could be made that would reduce the cost of elections in Louisiana without compromising the quality of their administration:

20.12.11

Attempt to subvert fund likely to fail, but without consequences

Prosperity in Louisiana has forced austerity, in a sense, putting the state on the hook for a rash action of a couple of years back, but that same prosperity might end up saving the state from the consequences of that decision.

Voters wisely rejected this past fall’s Amendment 4, which would have loosened up requirements on use of money in the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund. Under narrowly-defined circumstances defining its use the BSF acts as a savings account. It gets deposits from a variety of constitutionally-defined sources, which is where the state got into trouble in budgeting for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

One source of funds is when severance tax revenues, most of which is from oil and gas extraction, exceed a statutorily-defined figure of $850 million.

19.12.11

Dardenne again whines about not spending more

It's the unfortunate nature of government to always want more of the people's resources, usually the amounts demanded inversely related to the actual usefulness of the matter to be funded. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne regrettably demonstrates his acquiescence to this trait with his latest lament about how he can't get enough money to spend.

Dardenne has complained before about how the state does not dedicate all of the 0.03 percent sales tax it rakes off does not get used completely for the department he nominally heads, Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. He fingers as the worst culprit using those proceeds to subsidize special athletic events. Now he has a solution -- reaching into taxpayers' wallets.

He proposes establishing a fund for financing of these events, paid for by possibly diverting more of the proceeds from the sales tax or, worse, perhaps some kind of increase. Even if the tactic only was to divert, this locks away money that is needed for more pressing concerns and would compound the bad problem of too many dedications, too little discretion in the state's budgeting.

18.12.11

New candidate illustrates dishonesty of Roemer's bid

There’s the honest way to go about running for president, and then there’s former Gov. Buddy Roemer’s way, illustrated by another announced contender’s proclamations about his anticipated campaign.

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson recently declared his candidacy for the nation’s highest office through the vehicle of a new political party, mouthing the same conspiracy theories about moneyed interests controlling America, and in doing so trumped Roemer’s on credibility in three ways. First, Anderson, although like Roemer personally wealthy, made his fortune the old-fashioned way of liberals, as a trial lawyer, not through the system that Roemer used to supplement his family’s wealth and now criticizes. Second, he’s been a hardcore, fringe leftist his entire political career, not shifting views as has Roemer.

But, third and most relevant to the current election cycle and the issue on which Roemer has asserted purifies him relative to other candidates, Anderson also says he’ll accept no campaign donation over $100 and actually means it by running for this new party.