Last Modified: Monday, May 28, 2012 6:49 PM
And down the stretch they come ...
The racetrack announcer’s call from Churchill Downs, Pimlico Racetrack or Belmont Park? Not in this case, but it’s an appropriate phrase for Louisiana legislators, who must finish business by 6 p.m. June 4 when the session closes.
To date, Gov. Bobby Jindal has gotten his way with new laws that dramatically affect teacher tenure, making it harder to acquire and easier for poor-performing teachers to be dismissed, and a voucher program that allows a small fraction of students enrolled in low-performing schools to transfer to private or charter schools.
But it hasn’t been a slam dunk for the governor.
His bid to privatize a state prison died for lack of support as did a proposal to merge Louisiana Tech and LSU-Shreveport.
Still up in the air is the fate of several bills designed to reform the state retirement system. However, a couple have already been changed to soften the affect on state employees who are nearing retirement age.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room — the state budget.
Conservatives in the House made a stand and earlier this month forbade using one-time money to balance the budget. That left a shortfall of about $268 million.
As usual, the bulk of those cuts fell on two areas — health and hospitals and higher education.
DHH would have to do with about $100 million less, including a nearly 10 percent cut in pay to Medicaid providers, elimination of such services as Early Childhood Supports and Services, Adult Protective Services and closure of Central State Hospital.
Meanwhile, higher education institutions would face draconian cuts like 28 percent to LSU, an average of 31 percent to University of Louisiana System institutions and 30 percent to the community and technical colleges.
All the angst, though, subsided when the House later approved a “fund sweep” that allows the Senate to put one-time money back into the budget.
So all is calm for the moment.
But there has to be a better way for this process.
Part of the issue is that the state budget is so monolithic, few in the State Capitol truly understand its length and breadth. While some lawmakers can advocate in general where cuts could be made, the devil is in the details.
What we wind up with is this last-minute charade of cuts that sends shock waves throughout the Department of Health and Hospitals and higher education, and fund restorations that ultimately calm those jangled nerves.
There’s got to be a better way.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.