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Jindal continues challenging culture with privatizing budget

If anybody had any doubts that Gov. Bobby Jindal seeks to change Louisiana’s political culture, his latest budget should dispel those, but his administration must act fast to make it work.

Even as anticipated state-based revenues, a little from the general fund but most of it coming from dedicated sources, increase somewhat, the drop in federal funds, courtesy of the changing of the Medicaid disbursement formula, totals even more meaning a budget about a billion bucks smaller, or roughly 4 percent reduction. Naturally, the two areas seeing the most dramatic changes are those whose funding makes up the vast majority of discretionary general fund spending, health care and higher education – but in very different ways.

Higher education sees a stunning over 70 percent drop in general fund revenue, although when all means of financing are included it’s only about 7 percent (year-to-year; most of that already has been cut). Still, this represents a tectonic movement in the philosophy behind funding, for it represents the first overall drop in years – at $2.7 billion total funding is about the same as it was in the last year of Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s administration – with a massive shift in state sources. In Blanco’s last year, the general fund contributed $1 billion more than now, and self-generated funding (mainly tuition) and statutory dedication (some revenue from funds dedicated to higher education but mostly fund sweeps from funds unrelated to higher education) have added back in half of that each. From general fund money comprising nearly half of all spending on higher education six years ago, it’s now only about a tenth. As a point of reference, this means using as an example my home institution, Louisiana State University Shreveport will be asked to derive about 70 percent of its revenue from tuition and fees.


Edwards gubernatorial declaration now misreads future

Who would have thought the first guy out of the gate for the 2015 governor’s race would have been Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards? There’s a reason for that – and while it’s not what he says it is, it has everything to do with the perceived dynamics of a putative contest.

There is some merit to an early start. After the 2011 embarrassment where state Democrats could not get a quality candidate to run – the Democrat who ate the least amount of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s runaway reelection dust was nearly 50 percent of the vote behind – Edwards or any Democrat knows an early start, short of having the ability to self-finance, will be essential to have any hope of capturing the open seat in a state where attitudes have swung decisively against the left on a statewide level. Edwards is personally part of the one percent but not wealthy enough to abjure having to call in chits and sticking out his hand for more.

But, compared to when a typical, serious gubernatorial campaign starts, 18 months earlier? Edwards says he let the cat out of the bag because he wanted to give an honest answer when asked during a radio interview about his future intentions in that regard – which nobody of voting age or older should for a moment believe. It would have been perfectly believable had Edwards said he was giving it “serious thought” or that he “had received a lot of encouragement to run” but left it at that. Why let it out so far in advance, and seeming off-handedly (not in a news release or a well-publicized news conference or rally, but to a tiny, local audience composed almost entirely of political junkies and the bored)?


Test drive of anti-swap arguments reveals faulty agenda

It wouldn’t be the first time a news story came off as uninformed because of the reporter’s lack of knowledge. But in reading a piece interviewing state Sen. Eric LaFleur, one gets the sense the ignorance and misstatements in it about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to eliminate income and franchise taxes while raising sales taxes, removing sales tax exemptions, and increasing sin taxes come at least as much from LaFleur as maybe from the scribe – and for a reason.

This isn’t the Democrat’s first rodeo – he’s been around the Legislature, starting in the House, since 2000 – and he now serves on both the Senate’s Finance Committee and therefore on the Senate half of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. Yet in his published comments, both quoted and paraphrased, he comes off as clueless about the particulars of the plan, the impact that it will have, if not about taxation policy in the state.

For one thing, LaFleur asserted that the state portion of the sales tax would double from four to eight percent. But there is not a suggestion anywhere that it would come in that high. The Jindal Administration pledged any increase to go no higher than three percent, and its latest apparent figure is 1.78 percent higher. So, right off the bat LaFleur is misrepresenting the entire idea.


Screeds remind not to trust education to their deliverers

Advocates of the status quo comfortable at doing the same things that have kept Louisiana’s educational system dysfunctional kicked off their seven-stop gripe tour yesterday, reminding us why they cannot be allowed to prevent beneficial reforms.

Fronted by one of the state’s two main teachers’ unions, this tour, with a few brave exceptions, features commentary by those either directly responsible for or who have served as fellow-traveling hacks for promoting and implementing an ideology that has led to trashing Louisiana public education and its a richly-deserved past reputation of failure. While any topic seemed to be fair game, the rhetoric focused primarily on the COMPASS teacher evaluation system now in place across the state that evaluates core subject teachers half on the basis of quantifiable student progress, and secondarily on the scholarship voucher program where the state pays for students in poorly-performing public schools to attend other, almost all, private schools.

As always in these cases, the commentary that came must be translated. Regarding COMPASS, union-bought-and-paid-for Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Lottie Beebe (a former school official who soon will take over – parents be on alert – the St. Martin Parish School District) asserted, “Teachers do not object to the teacher evaluation process. However, we have real concerns with COMPASS.” Translation: “Teachers don’t object to a process where only 2.38 percent of experienced teachers get fired despite having horrendous learning outcomes. Our real concern is that our incompetents now will be found out by COMPASS.”


Minus one, prefiled bills good for LA firearms policy

As one might expect, with Pres. Barack Obama not wanting to waste a crisis to extend the reach of government control, great attention has been placed in national policy-making circles about firearms policy since an apparently deranged individual shot up a Connecticut school. Louisiana legislators, taking advantage of the bill prefiling for the legislative session that starts Apr. 8, have for the most part responded with helpful legislation as a response specifically to the tragedy but also more generally to the larger issue of just how much and what kinds of regulation about firearms best serves the public interest.

Most bills constitute an improvement in the public policy environment on this issue. HB 6 by Rep. John Schroder would present the opportunity for off-duty law enforcement officers to use weaponry on school grounds. This increases the chances that sufficient firepower would be available to counter a maliciously-armed individual, that would discourage them from thinking they can ravage a presumed and voluntarily disarmed environment, and that would begin the process of dispelling the fiction that is the pretend “gun-free” zones arbitrarily imposed in the state. Hopefully, other bills will surface getting rid of any restrictions for licensed concealed carry permit holders in the vast majority of public spaces.

HB 8 by Rep. Jeff Thompson would keep criminals from targeting defenseless households by prohibiting publishing whether an address was associated with a concealed carry permit. This would prevent the possibility of criminals getting this information from an irresponsible public source, and picking and choosing households to break and enter on that basis. In addition, those specifically wishing to steal guns (few habitual criminals obtain firearms legally) could use the information for burglary attempts.


Jindal popularity hit price paid for cultural transformation

Yes, we know that poll overweighed Democrat voters. But the major lesson from the results that showed Gov. Bobby Jindal’s popularity undergoing a substantial slide is that demonstrates that the slow cleansing of the populist stain in Louisiana’s political policy is picking up in intensity, and probably even past the point of no return.

Public Policy Polling, that polls for leftist causes and candidates, recently pegged Jindal’s approval rating at 37 percent, with 57 percent disapproving, Even adjusting for the poll’s inaccurate sample, his approval would probably be in the low 40s, and it certainly shows a slide in approval from a previous poll from the group that showed a year or so ago him at 58 percent. Further, another recent poll with likely a better sample showed him under 50 percent approval with slightly more respondents disapproving. Clearly, something has changed.

And that has been Jindal, with some gusto, with a reelection mandate, last year began to become much bolder in driving a stake through the idea that government always knows best when non-government options exist. This threatens exactly the populist political culture in Louisiana, based upon the notion that it is legitimate to redistribute wealth into providing jobs, goods, and services to people that to acquire without government might make them have to work harder, smarter, faster, or at all, from those who chose to work as hard, as smartly, and as quickly as they could.