Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

Louisiana’s underinvestment in higher education draws attention; James Gill: Jindal to the right of Big Oil on fees; Construction budget higher than Louisiana can afford; Louisiana unemployment claims rise; and Louisiana to license health navigators. $11 million — The actual net increase for colleges and universities out of the $40 million WISE fund. (Source: The Advocate)

Louisiana’s underinvestment in higher education draws attention
It’s no secret that the state’s investments in higher education have fallen quickly in recent years, with Louisiana cutting per-student spending more than any other state since 2008. But this year colleges got a slight funding boost, and legislators created a new program to bolster graduates in some in-demand fields. But while this is welcome news, it simply isn’t enough to prepare Louisiana’s workforce for the 21st century economy. This weekend, The Advocate’s editorial board urged state lawmakers to invest more in higher education: “… we wish that the governor and legislators would remember that this money is a means to an end, which is not only a better-educated population but the economic and social benefits that flow from it.”

The Times Picayune’s Bob Mann also chimed in on the subject, arguing that the combination of draconian laws and chronic underinvestment in need-based student aid has made it easier for low-income students to end up incarcerated than educated.

Those arguing for reform have even found some unlikely allies. Phyllis Taylor, one of the biggest opponents of TOPS reform, recognized that needs-based student financial aid is lacking in Louisiana. “She said the goal of the (TOPS) program was to ensure that ‘children of need’ were able to go to college and become a part of a productive workforce for the state. A needs-based component, such as an income limit, would help steer the money in that direction.”

James Gill: Jindal to the right of Big Oil on fees
Gov. Bobby Jindal has stood firm in his opposition to new taxes or fees, saying they kill jobs and are a drag on the Louisiana economy. But even some of the governor’s strongest allies, such as the oil and gas industry, are taking a different tack. Specifically, says The Advocate’s James Gill, industry leaders have said they’re willing to pay more to curb the rising concern of orphaned wells. “Bring it on, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs said in a speech in Lafayette. ‘Our industry knows orphan wells are a problem. We’re not the ones saying no, we won’t pay more.’”

Construction budget higher than Louisiana can afford
Louisiana has a growing backlog of construction projects that need to be addressed, but does not have enough revenues to address them. Unable to come up with a compromise on which projects to fund and which to leave out, legislators this session passed the quandary along to Gov. Bobby Jindal by passing a construction budget that exceeds the state’s borrowing potential by $380 million. “The result is that legislators are pitted against one another in a stampede to convince the governor of projects’ merit.”

Louisiana unemployment claims rise
Louisiana’s unemployment claims are on the rise, with almost 3,300 Louisianans filing new claims for the week ending June 7. The less volatile four-week average is also up, as is the four-week average for continuing claims, at just under 19,500.

Louisiana to license health navigators
Navigators, who help people understand and apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, will now have to submit fingerprints and complete a background check before they will be allowed to serve in Louisiana. In addition, a bill signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal Friday could require 30 hours of initial training in addition to the training required by federal officials and then 15 hours of training each year.

$11 million — The actual net increase for colleges and universities out of the $40 million WISE fund. (Source: The Advocate)