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How long will Blanco, Legislature remain this clueless?

So how clueless is Louisiana’s Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc? Enough apparently to continue in denial of what his boss Gov. Kathleen Blanco needs to do, in exercising her own powers and to prod the Legislature, to ensure the state’s adequate recovery from the recent hurricane disasters.

In a presentation, LeBlanc gave remarks that show his view decidedly is out of touch with reality. While it may be true that the state did take the first step towards recovery with the special session, calling it any more than a baby step would be a gross mischaracterization. Orleans Parish schools and building code reforms were handled adequately, but these are changes that will take years to manifest. Actions dealing with the immediate term paled in significance, if not making the situation worse. The budget was cut – but not restructured as it must be. The only levee board reform was cosmetic. The same goes for ethics reforms. State financial stability concerning its “rainy day fund” and its electoral honesty were altered for the worse by legislation. The session, called and determined in content by Blanco, may have been a mild success – but it’s hard to aim so low and still miss.

Thus, it is high comedy when LeBlanc suggested that it was now up to the federal government to respond in terms of assistance. Respond to what? How have things significantly changed, as a result of the session, relative to the political and fiscal structure of the state that would give government donors of money any confidence that they are making a wise investment in the state’s comeback?

The private sector has spoken. Downgrades of Louisiana’s debt occurred in part because of the special session’s inaction, some state officials say, meaning that Blanco’s plan to borrow the state to recovery is even more expensive and counterproductive. In fact, these downgrades echo LeBlanc’s lament that “Sometimes it does not feel like Louisiana is a part of this country” – after all, these rating agencies did place Louisiana in the same category with non-state, perpetually dependent Puerto Rico.

LeBlanc needs to brace himself for a tepid response from the federal government. After all, if the Blanco Administration’s plan is to “transition away” from the existing levee district system, no doubt he won’t mind Washington also being as slow and deliberate in its provision of aid.

But his greatest flight from fancy came with his remark, “This state deserves a chance for recovery -- not a handout -- a chance for recovery.” He needs to realize that the relationship is a two-way street. As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he will be hungry again. Teach a man to fish and he will never starve,” but the man in question must be willing to learn to fish for this to work.

The governance of Blanco and the Legislature’s majority (controlled by her) to date has shown a stubborn unwillingness to be willing to learn how to govern the state without resorting to politics as usual, populism, and cronyism. Worse, it is a willful, disdaining obstructionism to set aside failed ways of the past (as anybody who listens to the likes of state Sens. Robert Adley, Butch Gautreaux, and Rob Marionneaux will hear from these good old boys again and again in their partisan criticisms of the federal government and their complaints about how “unfair” is the media in portraying their reluctance to embrace good governance). Until these attitudes change, anything the state gets from the federal government, if left to its own devices, effectively will turn into a handout.

LeBlanc was unambiguously correct about one thing – it will take many “hard decisions” to bring the state back. He and his boss and the Legislature just need to stop making the convenient ones and to start making the correct ones.

1 comment:

wst... said...

we believe you have hit the nail on the head. we watched the special session online. how surreal. it was like watching people on another planet. we should all be ashamed. we know we are.