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LA higher education heads misintepret election results

Louisiana higher education leaders they may be, but they drew the wrong lessons from election night results.

Disappointingly, Amendment 2 went down to defeat at the hands of voters last week. This would have transferred tuition authority from a supermajority of the Legislature to university management boards. This makes tuition changes fairly inflexible in a marketplace demanding more and more adroitness in pricing decisions.

While difficult to ascribe motivations for voting behavior on this issue, perhaps the majority felt the Legislature would look less kindly on hiking tuition than the appointees it vets for the boards. Currently, the GRAD Act has delegated in a limited fashion the Legislature’s authority for this by allowing schools to increase tuition up to 10 percent annually until reaching the southern regional average, under contracts that will expire soon. Successful negotiations for new six-year contracts could continue this power exercised by the three boards.


LA CD 3 runoff has barnburner makings

In a year presumed for outsiders, the ultimate insider may win Louisiana’s Third Congressional District because of the votes of those typically least connected to the political process – if they turn out.

Last week, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle led the field in this contest. The former Democrat/now Republican not only has served in cabinet posts under two governors, but also led a parish and sits on the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors. Few in the state can match the breadth and length of his political career.

Yet he outpaced a raw amateur by just three percentage points, as law enforcement officer Republican Clay Higgins racked up 26 percent of the vote, way ahead of the third-place candidate, a white Democrat who ran a fairly unserious campaign that benefitted as a default for Democrat voters at nine percent. Right behind him came a black Democrat, followed by three Republicans who shelled out big bucks only for each to score in single digits.


LA GOP ready to stamp its authority on Senate, CD 4

As a result of last week’s elections, northwest Louisianans have two opportunities to nullify the playbook authored by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards for his party to win the biggest elections in the state.

Edwards famously captured the governorship last year when he tactically navigated, by emphasizing the few areas of agreement he had with voters while downplaying the many he did not, through a field of Republicans too busy savaging each other to expose him on those issues. This sent a gravely wounded Republican through to the runoff phase with him, where Edwards triumphed.

This year, only two general federal election contests resulted in a Democrat making the runoff. For Senate, northwest Louisiana’s Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell with 17 percent of the vote squeaked into a runoff with Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, who pulled in 25 percent. For House District 4, area lawyer and the lone Democrat Marshall Jones with 28 percent edged out Bossier City Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson by three points.


Mendacious letter distracts from expansion problems

When you can’t refute the argument, avoid addressing the argument – a time-honored strategy Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee employed in a letter to the editor addressing my recent Baton Rouge Advocate column that mentioned Medicaid expansion. Better, she not only dodged it, she added in some misdirection and misinformation on top of that.

That column really focused more on the “surprise” the Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration experienced when a budget deficit for this fiscal year appeared in its calculations, which to anyone conversant in economics would have expected: you raise taxes the equivalent of nearly 20 percent of general fund revenues and the resulting depression of economic activity will cause revenues to undershoot projections, especially as the Legislative Fiscal Office used a static model of revenue generation in formulating the impact of the hikes. However, the piece also mentioned the spending side, pointing out that almost the entire increase in the FY 2017 budget in state general fund dollars – the receptacle for the tax increases – came in health care spending.

That over $500 million increase stands in stark contrast to the alleged $184 million Medicaid expansion “savings” asserted by Edwards through his implementation of it – a figure which Gee’s department never has explained its derivation despite numerous questions from this space and others about that. The only study, by the department during the former Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration prior to Edwards’ election, cast serious doubt on those numbers and projects over the next several years the state would pay billions of extra dollars (shortly after the change in administrations, the new regime removed this and a successor paper from Health’s web site).