Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
Story Archives: It could have been worse
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|It could have been worse|
Much to the consternation of his critics, Gov. Bobby Jindal can realistically celebrate a few accomplishments in the first legislative session of his second term in office.
That's a good thing for Jindal, who won't have as much fun as time moves on and the lame-duck status takes hold in earnest. After all, lawmakers tend to get uppity when a governor like Jindal is barred from running for re-election, and they often are prone to show him that they won't be pushed around any longer. That's especially true among legislators who think they should be the next governor. Which is all of them.
While there's ample time to engage in some pontificating about who may emerge from the Legislature to run for governor in 2015, we should pause to digest what the Legislature did during the regular session that came to a close Monday at the Capitol in Baton Rouge.
At the top of the list is a package of bills backed by Jindal to reform public education in Louisiana, though we won't know if any of it works until long after the governor has moved on to bigger and better things in life. That could occur fairly quickly, depending on whom Republican Mitt Romney picks as his running mate in this fall's presidential race. Again, to the consternation of his critics, Jindal is high on the list of vice presidential hopefuls.
While Jindal's publicly funded scholarship program to give parents an option to pull their children out of failing schools and enroll them in a private one came under scrutiny of late, you can rest assured it will expose weaknesses in public education. At the very least, it will force administrators, including principals, to do more than attempt to cover them up. Money will be the deciding factor on that front, meaning administrators will act quickly to make the necessary changes to prevent state funding from leaving their schools and following students to points elsewhere, specifically private schools.
Teachers also won't enjoy the luxury of easily attainting tenure and holding on to it in perpetuity thanks to another aspect of the education reform package championed by Jindal. Surprisingly, it wasn't your run-of-the-mill educator who opposed changes in tenure. Instead, it was the champions of maintaining the status quo. In other words, it was the leaders of the teachers unions and their hacks who obviously felt tinkering with tenure represented a call to arm a garrison.
Speaking of a garrison, we may need one in a decade or two when the state discovers it doesn't the money to pay retired state employees the benefits they were promised. That is entirely a possibility in light of the unfunded accrued liability in the state retirement systems, which stands at some $18 billion today.
Lawmakers had a chance to do something about that $18-billion headache, but state employees worked the telephones and lobbied as if they were being asked to work for free to stop the retirement reform measures that Jindal put before lawmakers for their consideration. Though the Legislature approved one minor adjustment to the retirement system for future state employees, we will regret not tackling retirement reform now instead of waiting until a crisis comes home to roost.
It will be here before you know it.
Though much of the regular session was dominated by education reform, retirement reform and a minor uprising by conservative Republicans and their unlikely allies, Democrats, lawmakers managed to find time to approve another publicly funded handout for Tom Benson, the king of corporate welfare. It wasn't another subsidy for his New Orleans Saints that Benson extracted from the Legislature but a mere $40 million to aid the car salesman in his purchase of the New Orleans Hornets, a lackluster NBA franchise.
Of course, what's good for Benson is good for New Orleans and what's good for New Orleans is good for Louisiana.
Be that as it may, the handout for Benson was a drop in a bucket given that the Legislature eventually signed off on a $25.6-billion budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
It's a no-frills budget that includes cuts in funding for higher education and health care. What else is new, you may ask.
Not much, but it could have been worse.