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Merger alternative risks making bad situation worse

As opponents of improved higher education breathe a sigh of relief over the shift in strategy concerning Southern University New Orleans and the University of New Orleans, that they scored a victory does not diminish the upheaval facing the entire system in the state and their culpability in potentially making matters worse..

The eighth-of-a-loaf denouement now pursued by merger backers of simply shifting UNO into the University of Louisiana system and forging agreements between UNO and SUNO for resource-sharing has drawn sharply diverging views on the potential outcome. Some see this as a destructive umbilical cord that will sap UNO to keep SUNO performing at its abysmally low level. Others think, in a neo-functionalist way, that this will create tighter binds between the two that will dissolve SUNO resistance and facilitate a merger in just a few years, especially when SUNO faces reality.

And that reality is, pending the introduction of higher admission standards through 2012-14, that almost all freshmen who now qualified for admittance to and attend SUNO would be unable to do so.


Budget reality check needed for Jindal, Legislature

A bad week on budgetary matters for Gov. Bobby Jindal got worse when the Revenue Estimating Conference unexpectedly found itself approving a forecast that was not more but less, by $77 million, than those previously approved. This news, contrary to expectations voiced at the last REC meeting a couple of months ago, now means the Jindal Administration and the Legislature will have to grapple with a hole nearly $300 million greater than envisioned in the Administration’s initial budget.

Only Tuesday did the dominoes began falling and quickly. Then, the House Appropriations Committee decided to remove two contingent sources of funds, $86 million from the sales of prisons and $92 million by channeling money from the Millennium Trust Fund to fund Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars grants. The former would require legislation that the administration has ceased to back actively, while the latter depends on an affirmative legislative vote and one from the people no earlier than October, months after the new fiscal year’s start.

In part, this budgetary strategy was somewhat reckless by the Jindal Administration because its appropriations language did not really address from where monies to make up for the lack of funds if the contingencies didn’t come through. For example, on p. 166 of HB 1 (as originally):

Crybaby Gallot puts campaign interests over people's

And so, as a budget deficit needs final resolution, flood waters run rampant, and the wisdom of extensive tax cuts emerges as an issue, the great debate heats up over that burning issue of the day on which the fate of the state hangs, whether Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, of south Asian origins, appoints enough non-whites to spots in state government.

Statistics show that 10.6 percent of all appointees by the Republican have been blacks, while 32 percent statewide identified black as a single race for the 2010 Census. Other non-whites he appointed to the tune of 2.4 percent when other single-race identifiers, including Hispanics, totaled 6.4 percent statewide. Thus, whites got 87 percent of appointments in a state where identifying as single-race whites were 62.6 percent of the population.

Releasing this information prompted the Democrat chairman of the House Governmental and Affairs Committee, state Rep. Rick Gallot, to take the pacifier out of his mouth


LA income tax repeals practical, desirable in near term

While some can’t move beyond simplistic bromides concerning the issue, whether to eliminate over time personal and corporate income taxes in Louisiana deserves a serious, analytical response – conclusions showing that given other changes the former is a reasonable goal in the near future, and the latter can be realized in the present.

For fiscal year 2009-10, the state reported $2.24 billion in collections for the individual income tax, and $435 million for the corporate income tax. Note that the former in just two years fell about a billion dollars, and the other over a quarter billion. State government did not bolt and padlock its doors in the interim, thereby demonstrating that large cuts can be made without any significant reductions in the level and quality of service. As such, “replacing” revenues “lost” by termination of these taxes need not be a policy outcome of the change, but let’s assume this in the analysis going forward.

The corporate tax figure certainly is in reach almost immediately, although structural changes needed would have to happen over the next year so this could go into effect starting Jul. 1, 2012.


Another disaster brings new set of political questions

Time to get out of the way of rising water headed into the area roughly between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers, and whatever flooding occurs in the next couple of weeks raises three political questions for Louisiana state politics going forward.

First, how much relative blame will state government get for the fact that as many as 25,000 people may get washed out of house and home and perhaps thousands of businesses ranging from farms to highly technology-dependent firms could find themselves under water? Technically, there should be none because the state has nothing to do with the decision that was controlled by the federal government, and the Army Corps of Engineers in particular (which may help redeem the ACE in the eyes of those around New Orleans but create an entire new set of complainers in the Atchafalaya Basin).

But, a lot of people won’t realize this so the logical lightning rod would be Gov. Bobby Jindal.