Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
Story Archives: The summer our lives changed
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- The summer our lives changed
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|The summer our lives changed|
As each day passes, it would appear the summer of 2010 will mark the beginning of a wholesale change in Louisiana.
This summer also seems destined to earn its place in history as President Barack Obama's Waterloo. No offense to Napoleon intended.
Not since the dark days of the mid 1980s when the oil bust brought state government to its knees financially have we seen a budgetary crisis unfold at the capitol like the one that's developing today. It's a crisis for fans of big government, but not for the folks who believe state government has paid for too much for too long.
Concerned citizens who would like see state government shrink in size and scope may get their wish. They may not get it this year, but they'll most likely get it in 2011 when state lawmakers supposedly will have about $1 billion less on hand to spend than they have at their disposal in 2010. A tax increase is out of the question, as it should be.
Speaking of 2010, the Legislature can't agree on how to close out the fiscal year that ends June 30 because the legislative leadership is at odds over how much red ink's flowing at the state treasury. Some say it's $319 million. Others claim it totals more than $500 million. Either way, it's a lot of money, which the state doesn't have. More spending reductions are in order, as they should be.
Senate President Joel Chaisson and House Speaker Jim Tucker also are engaged in an old-fashioned butting of the heads, if you will, over how the Legislature should pay back money it takes from a fund that was established to assist the state when money is tight. Chaisson wants to repay the state's Rainy Day Fund over time. Tucker says the state Constitution requires that the Legislature repay the fund as soon as it has the money to do it. No one seems to know whether Chaisson is correct or whether Tucker has it right. Either way, the state and her people will suffer as long as the impasse persists.
That the Legislature was forced to turn to the Rainy Day Fund to bail out the government in a fiscal year that ends in about two weeks tells us two things. No. 1, lawmakers spent too much money when they ironed out a spending plan last year for the current fiscal year. No. 2, the economy is performing worse than the fiscal experts anticipated. Otherwise, the state would have plenty of income and sales tax revenues on hand to make ends meet.
If the fiscal experts missed the boat, so to speak, in projecting revenues versus expenses for the current fiscal year, what should we expect in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins July 1? Anyone?
At the very least, the Legislature would do well to approve a bare-bones budget for the new fiscal year before the Legislature calls it quits when the regular session ends Monday, June 21. That's likely to occur anyway in light of revenue projections that tell us the state treasury is bare and will be bare for some time because of an economy that can't seem to rebound from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Hovering above—or deep in the Gulf of Mexico—is a problem for the state, its economy and its environment that no one anticipated prior to April 20.
That 11 men lost their lives when the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded some 40-50 miles off Louisiana's coast was a tragedy in itself. The damage to the environment and the havoc the Deepwater incident is causing for the economy in Louisiana and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast has evolved into a tragedy, too. It will be years—if ever—before the environment recovers from the oil that continues to flow from a hole in the floor of the Gulf, washing ashore from Louisiana to Florida while it eventually could affect the Florida Keys and the Eastern Seaboard as well. That's when all hell will break loose.
Though he paid his fourth visit to the Gulf Coast earlier this week since the Deepwater explosion occurred, Obama has appeared inept in his handling of the worst environmental catastrophe the country has ever witnessed or endured. Placing a moratorium on deepwater drilling, which Obama ordered, was a knee-jerk reaction that was clearly intended to appease the president's base of support—Leftists in the Democratic Party.
A level-headed public official would have thought things through before throwing cold water on an industry that employs thousands of people, literally drives a state's economy and generates a boat load of tax revenues for local, state and federal governments. Not Obama. No, Obama apparently acted without thinking, and the people of Louisiana and beyond will pay a steep price because a man who holds a job he's not qualified to hold acted on emotions. Or he did exactly what he intended to do. If the latter is the case, God help us.
Yet, the damage is done and it's only going to get worse—for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The oil and gas industry and the people who rely upon it have taken a huge hit and will continue to suffer as long as the moratorium is in place. The seafood industry and the people who have worked in and around it for years are suffering far more than most of us will ever know. And the environment, including Louisiana's fragile marsh, won't be the same for generations to come.
Obama is damaged, too. Politically that is, and possibly beyond repair.
Just as Hurricane Katrina defined President George W. Bush's second term, Deepwater Horizon is defining Obama's young presidency. Though neither man should be blamed for the catastrophes themselves, their actions in the wake of them were and remain less than presidential.