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Latest request dispels myth of LA higher education doom

Observers and participants got an early view of a big part of the fiscal 2015 budget to be proposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal tomorrow when earlier this week he laid out plans for higher education. If what is expected comes to fruition, what passes in the legislatively-approved budget will end an exceptionally misunderstood budgetary era regarding funding this state government function leaving Louisiana with a different, and healthier, system of higher education going forward.

Jindal announced that not only does he want to boost higher education with an additional $14 million in state general fund money, the first boost in half a decade, but he also wants schools to take advantage of tuition increases that are projected to draw an additional $88 million and be able to tap into a $40 million fund that rewards on the basis of program expansion in areas of study identified as high need. It continues a pattern over his terms in office of reshaping higher education delivery based upon results largely shaped by his budgetary choices ratified by the Legislature.

A mythology, largely driven by disgruntled higher education employees and Jindal critics, formed over his years in office asserting that in this time period higher education suffered nothing less than catastrophe. They point to the $2.814 billion budget, just about half of which was funded directly by state government in the last budget before Jindal’s arrival, as compared to the current fiscal year’s budget that contains only about $525 million in that general fund financing, feeding the narrative of cataclysm.


Favorite Vitter's entry defines LA's 2015 governor's race

What observers were 99.44 percent sure about became 100 percent yesterday when Sen. David Vitter announced he would run for Louisiana governor in 2015. He immediately becomes the favorite and his decision and a potential win as a result dramatically alter the state’s political landscape.

Not really for Democrats, with one exception. This should discourage New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu from running for governor (assuming he wins reelection this spring where he is the favorite; a defeat most likely snuffs any thought of statewide office). Vitter’s strength comes from his ability, unparalleled among current state Republicans, to unite both traditional, principled conservatives and populist conservatives. Perhaps the most populist-oriented state in the country, and certainly the most in the South given its political culture and history, as a consequence there is a significant Republican component among populists as well as with Democrats, which in most places is their natural home. Not only can Vitter grab a good share of the former, he also can pick off some of the latter, shielding them from Landrieu or the only announced Democrat in the contest, state Rep. John Bel Edwards. Landrieu can hope for victory only if he can corral a good portion of white populists, the chances of which diminished considerably with Vitter’s entrance. Landrieu is more likely to consider substituting for his sister Mary should she lose to Rep. Bill Cassidy in her reelection bid in 2014 should Vitter win in 2015 in the 2016 contest to succeed Vitter.

Also discouraging his entrance should be the presence of state Treas. John Kennedy, the only real competitor Vitter has for conservative populists. While many consider that Vitter now removes Kennedy’s oxygen from the race, Kennedy’s recent announcement validating fundraising prowess may indicate he eventually will run regardless of Vitter. This certainly dampens Kennedy’s chances should he enter, but should he this creates even more competition for the populist vote. Meanwhile, at this point Vitter had a clear path to collecting the large majority of the principled conservative vote – despite the fact that this vote largely allies itself with Gov. Bobby Jindal, who does not hang with Vitter.


Paring of LA congressional request best for U.S. interests

While most observers could heave a sigh of relief at the federal budget deal passed into law last week, some felt disappointed at the failure to retain in it a special line item relevant to northeast Louisiana. Such feeling is misplaced.

Last summer, Sen. Mary Landrieu in the Senate version of what would gravitate into an omnibus appropriations bill got inserted a provision that would allocate $700,000 directly to the World Heritage Centre. That represented about one percent of dues owed in arrears for the past year to the organization’s parent, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, representing that portion for operating the WHC.

Despite being the chief architect of UNESCO, the U.S. has had a contentious history with the organization. In 1984, it withdrew as the organization, run by a 21-member board, increasingly promoted an anti-open society, anti-free enterprise agenda while tolerating administrative waste and aggrandizement. Internal governance changes led to the U.S. rejoining it in 2003, but in the interim laws had been passed that forbade the U.S. to contribute money to organizations that recognized as a full member, connoting that it is a state, what today is the Palestinian Authority.


Nevers hopes legislator, public stupidity passes expansion

State Sen. Ben Nevers apparently needs some extra exercise, so he decided to flog the dead horse called Medicaid expansion. But he does so on the usual mistaken beliefs of its supporters and on the erroneous thinking that the voting public as a whole is actually dumber than state legislators.

That latter group would have to be pretty dumb to support the idea. The state has the choice to include individuals at 25-100 (or perhaps up to 138) percent of the poverty line in Medicaid because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) to stay consistent with the Constitution cannot compel states to do this. The most reliable study done on the matter, by the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals last year, indicates rejection is the most cost-effective policy, showing that within a decade the state will pay out $92.5 million more a year than without it, by then the extra payout increasing by 15 percent a year and only going higher.

No expansion also will provide the best medical outcomes. Recently, a study in Oregon demonstrated that the worst outcomes were recorded by those utilizing Medicaid services, compared to those with private insurance and no insurance at all. Both that and why the current method of serving the uninsured through uncompensated care reimbursements saves money compared to expansion are explained by a fact of which Nevers either is unaware or won’t admit in order to advance his agenda.


Maness flubs continue to prevent taking him seriously

How you don’t run for public office: Part I, starring Rob Maness (Part II might be here).

When asked about his view on allowing exceptions to having flood rates match risk, Maness said he was against that before being for it. Recently, the law changed that was designed to reduce, if not eliminate, subsidization of rates that kept them artificially low. The problem, from the perspective of a Louisiana federal officeholder, is that Louisianans disproportionately benefitted from the program, even as it allowed for some taxpayers to subsidize others, including many families of middle class and higher lifestyles and income.

Both incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main challenger Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy voted for the legislation. Landrieu said she did under protest because it was attached to other legislation that enabled money to be spent on recovery from the oil well blowout disaster of 2010. Cassidy also saw that part of the bill as salutary, and wanted to put the flood insurance program on solid footing and available, which it would have lapsed without passage. It has run a deficit, particularly aggravated by the Louisiana hurricane disasters of 2005 and the New Jersey hurricane disaster of 2012, in part because the rates badly underpriced risk for many holders of these policies. Both have offered legislation that would delay implementation of what they voted for, and in the fiscal year 2014 budget that last week both voted for it contains a provision that delays until 2015 these rate increases regarding some policyholders.