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LA college reform, not more spending, needed

It’s good to review occasionally the condition of Louisiana’s higher education funding, as the interest group Public Affairs Research Council did recently, especially trenchant with the ambitious master plan adopted by the Board of Regents three years ago. But to understand best policy, you have to ask the right questions.

The PAR note on financing trends observes how means of finance have changed since 2005. Back then, almost 60 percent came from the state general fund and dedications, while only about a third tuition and fees supplied. Last year, the proportions basically had shifted. Meanwhile, only in the past couple of years has financing in total dollars surpassed the previous high mark in 2008.

This doesn’t bode well for the master plan, which seeks to increase over a third the proportion of Louisianans with a college degree in 2018 by 2030, if it’s assumed more money must be thrown at the problem to achieve the goal. In its summation, PAR also repeats some of the usual talking points without proper context that seem to indict the state’s contribution, that it “struggles” with funding higher education, that its appropriations per student ranks among the lowest in the country and southern region, and that to offset the reset since 2008 tuition has gone up by about three-quarters.


Processing tax swap for personal income tax fails

Like herpes, the bad idea of an oil processing tax, shilled forever by Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, just keeps coming back.

Campbell kept his mouth shut about it, the idea of levying a tax on each barrel of oil refined, for the last six years. He recently brought it back as discussion has taken place among some lawmakers to eliminate Louisiana’s state individual income tax, with his suggestion of swapping the two (not a new idea of his).

Currently, the state levies a severance tax on oil taken from the ground (including its territorial waters), which presumably is refined in the state. But that comprises only (in 2021) 34.7 million annually, compared to the 873.6 million processed (Campbell spouts the ratio of 49:1 total to state oil processed, but the actual figure is more like 25:1). So, assuming today’s West Texas Intermediate crude price of about $82 a barrel, around 0.073 percent a barrel will get you to the $4.3 billion hole that would be created – discounting dynamic effects that would spur the economy to increase tax collections in other forms – by lopping off the individual income tax.


LPSC must prevent deal from gouging ratepayers

For many Louisiana ratepayers, their cost of electricity could go unnecessarily higher unless the Public Service Commission stays vigilant and doesn’t lapse into following political fashion.

Last week, the body gave final approval to Entergy Louisiana, which outside of its separate New Orleans entity provides electricity for almost all of the state except for its western-most parts, to incorporate up to 475 MW of power from four solar producers, one of which it will own and three from which it will buy. This alone, set to come online fully in mid-2023, will triple existing solar and wind generation capacity within the state, which at present accounts for just about two percent of total generation, the lowest among the 50 states.

That paucity isn’t a bad thing. In part, it allows the state to have relatively low residential rates with high consumption, although overall consumption is driven by industry. Although geography can cause significant individual fluctuations, overall renewable forms of energy cost much more to produce for a variety of reasons, including transmission, its non-dispatchable form, and necessity of dispatchable backup. Over time, as the portfolio of energy tilts more in the direction of greater portion of renewable energy, the more extra ratepayers must shell out as compared to use of fossil fuels.


End of kid jab mandate points to needed reform

With no fanfare, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Louisiana Department of Health formally repealed its needless and counterproductive Wuhan coronavirus vaccination requirement for school children, ending a controversy that it never should have started.

Even this was botched. It appeared in the September Louisiana Register that details changes to administrative law, weeks after school had started which subjected children as young as toddlers to the burden. That’s because it was put in the works in May, just after an attempt by the Republican-led Legislature to cancel it, and the excuse Edwards then gave for choosing that timing – that the state kept waiting on full authorization for its use from the federal government – if really the main reason would have been timed better to allow the rule to become final prior to the beginning of classes.

But, because of that publicity, likely almost every school district in the state didn’t press the issue last month – except Orleans Parish, which, along with a very few and Democrat-run districts nationwide, stubbornly kept it in place. Fortunately, state law also allows families to opt out their children, which will blunt the impact of the directive.


BC backhands attempt at fiscal responsibility

Again, it’s only $36,000, but it’s also illustrative of what happens when government elites take the people’s money to rule in their interests, not the people’s, and the bad fiscal consequences that entails.

Last week, the Bossier City Council approved a three-year contract at that sum per year to pay existing contractor Todd Killen to run the Bossier Tennis Center. Those duties include giving lessons, conducting clinics, running tournaments and leagues, and offering repairs and merchandise, all together necessitating the hiring of employees, while the city picks up operating and maintenance costs of the facility.

During the final consideration of the ordinance, Republican Councilor Chris Smith noted that in comparison with typical area contracts of this nature that these have provisions such as a requirement for fundraising and diversion of part of fees remitted to local government as a reserve for capital expenditures. The contract in question had neither, and he asked whether these could be included.