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Merger study may promote efficiency over politics

Local citizen leaders from Shreveport have floated the old idea to merge my institution, Louisiana State University Shreveport, with Louisiana Tech and Louisiana State University Medical Center Shreveport. While there are as many political reasons to do this as educative ones, if done for the latter something like it could improve educational efficiency in the state.

The idea isn’t new, and its history shows the political perils. During the term of the previous LSUS chancellor in the first part of the 1990s, he brought up the idea or merging us and Tech, which essentially got him run out of his job and town. A map reveals much of the logic behind his idea: LSUMCS is just miles from LSUS, which then is 70 miles west of Tech in Ruston, which is just five miles east of Grambling State University in Grambling and 30 miles west of the University of Louisiana – Monroe in Monroe. Also, 65 miles to the southeast is Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. Why scatter all these centers of higher education across an area of population of just a half million people?

Tech seemed the likeliest candidate for a merger.


Polling shows campaigns to feature even more attacking

New polling information about the only two substantive contests for statewide office up for grabs this fall shows a little clarity emerging on one but the other as murky as ever, and points to campaigning up until the Oct. 22 election becoming even less tied to issues and more to personality.

A poll conducted for WWL-TV in New Orleans for lieutenant governor showed the current occupant Jay Dardenne leading his opponent Plaquemines Parish Pres. Billy Nungesser 40-27 percent, and current House Speaker Jim Tucker up on incumbent Sec. of State Tom Schedler for that office. The margin of error computed for these races, both involving only Republicans, is four percent.

Ordinarily, that would tell us that while the Secretary of State matchup is close enough not to declare a definite leader, Dardenne’s lead is significant.


Official uses misdirection in downplaying LA pension reform

If we know nothing else about government, we know that bureaucrats always stump for more resources associated with their agencies . This explains several disingenuous remarks made by Louisiana State Retirement Systems Director Cindy Rougeou to members of the press regarding reform efforts that would downsize the power and resources of state pension funds.

They came as part of her stumping for Amendment 2 that voters will face in less than two weeks, which would mandate some portion of forecast budget surpluses to pay down the unfunded accrued liability of the four state retirement funds, which hold and manage money from defined benefit pensions in which most state employees participate. While she correctly voiced support for that measure, she proceeded then to try to explain away the responsibility that policy-makers and retirement officials had in creating the over $18 billion hole that must be wiped away according to the Constitution by 2029, in the process trying to cast doubt on proposals to assist in that made by the interest group Blueprint Louisiana. A list of these erroneous assertions made by her and the real facts concerning them is instructive.

Assertion: “The problem is the debt, not the benefit being earned.” This she argued because the state did not pay enough into the system in the past to make sure projected payouts would be covered.

Fact: The state contributions did not cover projected costs because benefits were too generous in the first place.


Report shows LA state policy-makers excelled on economy

Welcome music to the ears of Gov. Bobby Jindal and legislators running for reelection comes from a group reporting that Louisiana has fared recently better economically than about two-thirds of the states. But it’s important to understand the relationship between policy and results to assess validly the credit policy-makers may take for this.

The Federal Funds Information for States noted that while Louisiana was slightly below the national average in growth of personal income over the previous year, it ranked 10th in employment growth, 11th in population growth, and tied for the 13th-lowest unemployment rate. All in all, this ranked it 15th overall among the states for the past year.

Just in time for these elected officials to take credit, it reflects most on Jindal as by far he has the most influence on state economic policy as a single individual, even though collectively the Legislature has a lot to say about that as well.


Jindal endorsement leaves opening for his anti-tax critics

Through his nearly four years as governor, Bobby Jindal has attracted charges from a distinct but vociferous minority claiming he says one thing and does another. But now given a Hobson’s policy choice, Jindal has presented to these heretofore spurious opponents at least a small piece of ammunition that for the first time supports their assertion.

To date, the examples they have used lack validity. They complain about the ethics agenda that was largely Jindal’s creation that actually depoliticized and improved the process, that Jindal has not really reduced the size of government when the number of employees funded by state revenues continues to decrease and savings are being wrung through increased efficiencies in areas such as indigent health care, and that Jindal, who has argued consistently the opposite, supports “tax increases” yet cite increases in fees-for-service, including tuition, as obviously inapplicable examples. But, hold the phone on that last point, as, buffeted by political reality, Jindal has given them an opening with the first legitimate example validating their claim.

Asked about Amendment 1 on the Oct. 22 ballot, Jindal expressed support for it.