Jim Beam column:Change comes hard in Louisiana

Published 6:37 am Wednesday, September 27, 2023

All of the major candidates for governor are telling voters they are going to solve Louisiana’s serious problems — crime, corruption, education, infrastructure, insurance costs, health care, and taxes.

Can anyone do it, and do they really want to? History says these have been serious issues in Louisiana for a long, long time.

What kind of history, you ask? OK, here are some examples:

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Ronie Taylor, 15, was shot to death at a birthday party in Bogalusa on Dec. 9, 2022. His parents, Reginald Taylor, and  Ronique Jones-Taylor, said because of crime they moved the family from New Orleans to Bogalusa. The boy’s mother said this time they were going to move again — out of Louisiana for good.

In  February this year, we learned that 44% of the state’s 4.6 million people were on the Medicaid rolls. That is the federal-state health care program for low-income families and the state has too many of those families.

Louisiana lost its 8th Congressional District in 1993 because its population didn’t grow fast enough. The 7th Congressional District disappeared in 2013.

A report in The Advocate Sunday said, “Louisiana’s population has flatlined. In contrast, neighboring states are surging.” Actually, Louisiana’s population has been declining for a long time.

The newspaper talked to David LeBoeuf and his wife, Gwen, who evacuated to Asheville, North Carolina, after Hurricane Ida in 2021. They said they are considering making it a permanent home and gave some excellent reasons why.

“Trash gets picked up,” LeBoeuf said, then he quickly ticked off a list of other issues, including insurance costs, crime, and education, that the couple found were less of a concern in North Carolina. He called Asheville “a functional city.”

“If it wasn’t for our friends and family, we’d be gone already,” he said.

In reference to the upcoming elections, the newspaper said many voters have already cast ballots of a different sort. It said thousands of Louisiana residents — especially college-educated professionals —  are leaving the state for better lives and opportunities elsewhere, movements that have been going on for decades.

Since 2010, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and South and North Carolina have all posted double-digit population growth. Texas and Florida have each grown by nearly 20%. Louisiana has grown by just 1.25% since 2010 and could eventually lose the 6th  Congressional District.

Here are some other movements reported by The Advocate:

Khoury Ieyoub, the daughter of the late-Richard Ieyoub, former state attorney general and conservation commissioner, said she loves her job in San Francisco and is getting far better experience in film and TV production than she could have at home.

Zachary native Garrett Rushing graduated in 2021 from Louisiana Tech with a degree in biomedical engineering and found a good job in Denver. He and his wife, Sloane, a Leesville native, both had trouble finding work in Louisiana.

Stephen Patin, a Mandeville native and LSU graduate, moved to Houston in May 2022 for his medical residency where he said, “They do a lot more things to help their citizens out.”

The sad part is that both Ieyoub and Patin said they hope someday to move back to Louisiana.

“I fully believe Louisiana is a great place,” Patin said.

Yes, it is, but it has the same old problems it has had for much too long. Take health care, for example. The Advocate said not a single doctor provides obstetric care in 17 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes. It said the scarcity of nurse midwives is one reason the state has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the developed world.

Dustin Granger of Lake Charles, the Democratic candidate for state treasurer on Oct. 14, has the right solutions for many of the state’s problems. He discussed them during an interview with the American Press editorial board. The details were published Tuesday in a Page 1 story.

Too many members of Louisiana’s Legislature that have the ability to make some of the changes that Granger outlined have refused to make the decisions that could turn things around. They seem more concerned about cultural issues.

Louisiana has a road and bridge backlog that now totals $18 billion and it just keeps growing. And the state gives as much away in tax breaks and tax exemptions as it receives in tax revenue.

The Pelican Institute has just released a detailed report titled, “Louisiana’s  Comeback: A Tax Plan for Our Brighter Future.” Many other tax reform plans much like it from past years are still picking up dust on shelves somewhere.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Unfortunately, too many of Louisiana’s public servants haven’t found the “will” part yet.