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You want directions on LA's budget? Just click here

So legislators think Gov. Bobby Jindal will provide minimal direction this session as the state faces budgetary difficulty. That’s all right, I’ll take up the slack.

Jindal presented a budget as by the Constitution, but it met with criticism in certain areas, some portion of it rightly so. The biggest of these were that it cut funding for higher education $221 million and for health care $150 million even as rolling back tax credit rebates were to bring in $526 million, although $377 million of that came in the form of the inventory tax credit would cause in the aggregate businesses’ tax to rise by that amount, because the tax is levied at the local level which the state could not change. To reduce the hit to higher education perhaps by half, the Jindal Administration suggested a convoluted plan to raise cigarette taxes, to increase college fees, then to pass through the proceeds of the tax to offset the fee. Jindal has said he will veto any tax increase that does not have an offset elsewhere. Also of some concern is that the partner entities operating the state charity hospitals want additional funding to continue providing services above and beyond their contractual obligations, estimated at $142 million.

What is presented here uses the executive budget as a baseline, as much of it presents a good framework. It then reshapes it so some degree, taking bills already introduced and some data associated with them, trying to address the valid concerns about workability and desirability of the policy options attached to it. Just as the present budget requires a slew of legal changes that eliminate the tax credit refunds, some also will be needed under this plan.


Girls in tuxedos sought in schools, not religious belief

You may be forgiven for wondering whether the world has turned upside down upon learning in north Louisiana schools it seems more important that girls wear tuxedos at proms than supporting school leaders who give witness to values that build character and respect the dignity of all people.

In Monroe, controversy ensued when several Carroll High School girls were told they couldn’t attend prom in that traditionally male attire. Jurisprudence is that schools have wide latitude in placing restrictions on free expression, in that these are reasonable if connected to the educational mission of the school. Certainly disruption of something such as a sponsored school event qualifies, given the hostility that could ensue from attendees interpreting this attire as a symbol of behavior they see offensive that they are forced to condone, and that many school teachers that would chaperone the event reputedly said they would not do so if that were allowed to happen. This got up the dander of at least one pro-homosexual interest group that called the refusal “harmful” and would “censor” the aggrieved girls’ “core identity.”

But children are children and even at that age many engage in more than enough buffoonery, including cross-dressing at formal functions in order, if nothing else, to assert their independence and to inject a little levity onto that experience in their lives, which within a relatively short time will seem to all but a handful insignificant. That the district has allowed this at other times, without riots breaking out even if previous tuxedoed lasses may have desired to signal that they prefer to behave homosexually, undercut any argument that the event would end badly. The Monroe City School District properly will allow girls to appear dressed as penguins at the soiree.


Jindal past, present, future on display in swan song

Perhaps a little less valedictory but mostly predictably, Gov. Bobby Jindal gave his swan song State of the State address to open the 2015 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, determined to go out in his own way, in his own time, both putting a period on his attempted transformation of the state and starting a new chapter outside of it.

Of his eight such speeches, it was among the most compact, and certainly the most thematic, bringing out three major items tied by their impact on his legacy and how that will become interpreted in the future. After a review of the past that mentioned genuine accomplishments in the areas of ethics reform, expanding choice that lead to improvement in education, streamlining and improving government’s role in healthcare delivery for the indigent, and in overseeing general economic growth statewide with the implications that right-sizing government and holding the line of taxes did the trick, he promised resolution of a creaky budget by asking for repeal of and heaping blame onto “corporate welfare,” to eject the Common Core State Standards Initiative from the state, and to support the effort to protect constitutionally-guaranteed religious freedom by prohibiting state coercion that would force service providers to support behavior relative to marriage that they see as immoral.

The first of these Jindal and all other policy-makers have known for months would be forced upon them, but, even as his no tax increase pledge remained familiar, novel to his response was the identification of “wasteful spending” by government courtesy of programs to give generous tax breaks beyond tax liability. He essentially said nothing about this in the previous seven years, leading astute observers to wonder whether past omission of excising these, as he indicated was his preferred solution to ensure adequate funding to government this year, came from an oversight on his part. Many of these were as wasteful then as they are now, and if this now is a big deal, why not then? This comes across more as a defensive measure to avoid an unpleasantry than anything else.


Kennedy's choice mostly sets statewide office races

And so it seems, with one exception, the decision of Louisiana’s Republican Treasurer John Kennedy to seek reelection has set the lineups for this fall’s state executive office contests, resulting in three competitive races and maybe adding intrigue to a potential future one.

Kennedy’s choice means the gubernatorial field, a spot for which he considered running, is close to being final as far as meaningful candidates go. Of them, Republican Sen. David Vitter gained the most with Kennedy’s deferral, as both have a populist appeal to the electorate, and solidifies his status as favorite. Still, this field could change if Democrats split among themselves and put up another candidate other than state Rep. John Bel Edwards. Especially if a quality black candidate were to enter it, this would likely assure a general election runoff of Vitter with either Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne or Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, both Republicans, thereby decreasing Vitter’s chances of victory. It all depends upon whether Democrats want to hang onto the slim chance that Edwards could prevail in the runoff that he has a great chance of making if the only quality Democrat in the contest, or if they want to throw in the towel and have the chance to pick from among the least objectionable (to them) of Republican candidates in a runoff.

Additionally, the decision by Kennedy basically settled the attorney general competitors, the other office he considered, with only incumbent Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell and former Rep. Jeff Landry so far as quality candidates, to both of the Republicans’ relief. Kennedy probably would have made a runoff with one of them and might have been the favorite in that against either. With no sign of a competitive Democrat probable to enter the fray, this configuration lends itself to a tossup at this time, with the majority of Republicans pulling for Landry and Democrats having to settle for their former co-partisan Caldwell.