Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne has the unpleasant task of convincing the House of Representatives – particularly its most conservative members who serve on the Appropriations Committee – that Louisiana’s fiscal cliff is a real and dangerous problem. That makes him an unpopular figure within his own party, as The Advocate’s Lanny Keller explains:
As with the famous “magic asterisk” of President Ronald Reagan’s supply-side budgets, in which illusory cuts were buried in the fine print of fiscal documents, the belief is that there are hundreds of millions in waste, fraud and abuse hidden away somewhere. Just beat up on the commissioner of administration, or department heads, long enough and sneeringly enough, and a politically painless way to solve the budget crisis will become obvious, even to the clueless Gov. John Bel Edwards. That Dardenne — formerly lieutenant governor, secretary of state and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — calmly called that nonsense made him the target that day. That he knows more about the budget than any number of the Appropriations Committee members combined makes the delusions of the Order of the Magic Asterisk more obvious. However unpalatable to the House side, the facts are exactly as Dardenne articulated, and they won’t change. That’s because members of the Order, typically representing suburban districts, won’t have the votes in their own chamber to slash social programs that are vital to poor and working-class families across the state.
Budget cuts and doctor training
Doctors who are educated in Louisiana are increasingly likely to leave the state for post-graduate residency training – a trend that LSU officials attribute at least in part to the state’s constant budget crises. The Dean of the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, writing in The Advocate, explains how this could affect the state in future years.
A key factor for these students is whether or not we can provide them with an outstanding clinical experience. If this is not available due to the threat of a reduction of hospital beds and clinical services, they will decide to go elsewhere for training. Once they leave, less than one-third will return to Louisiana to practice. The single greatest determinant of where doctors will practice is where they train. In fact, 70 percent of physicians practice within 100 miles of where they trained. It is widely acknowledged that there is an existing physician shortage in Louisiana, and in the country as a whole, which is forecast to only worsen in the coming years. The impact of this shortage will be felt throughout Louisiana.
The case for early childhood education
A bill up for debate this morning in the House Education Committee would set aside $10 million from an unclaimed property fund to help low-income parents who are waiting for subsidized early care and education. Research is clear that high-quality early childhood education is the best investment the state can make, as it pays dividends for generations to come. The money that would come available through Rep. Steve Carter’s House Bill 513 is a small down payment on the $208 million recommended by the Ready Louisiana, a coalition that includes the Louisiana Budget Project, but it’s an important start. The Editorial Board for Nola.com/The Times-Picayune weighs in:
The case for investing in preschool is easy to make: Ninety percent of a child’s brain development occurs between birth and age 4, and quality Pre-K programs are a vital to that development. But the lack of funding means that many children in Louisiana don’t have access to good child care or preschool. Not only does that put them behind, it can undermine their parents’ jobs. A 2017 report by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, LSU, Loyola University and Entergy found that the ability of parents with young children to work is directly affected by the availability of child care and preschool. The report results are alarming: 14 percent of parents turned down a promotion because of child care issues; 18.5 percent went from full-time to part-time work; 16 percent had to quit their job, and more than 40 percent had to miss work or leave early during a 90-day period.
Rolling back criminal justice reform
FIve months after Louisiana passed an historic set of criminal justice reforms, some judges and district attorneys are supporting bills to roll back some of the major elements. The House Criminal Justice Committee agreed to legislation that lengthens the amount of time that former inmates must serve on probation, and requires judges to be more involved in cases where former offenders seek to have their probation shortened because of good behavior. Julia O’Donoghue at Nola.com/The Times-Picayune has more.
Sarah O’Brien, a public defender from New Orleans, said her caseload could triple if (Rep. Sherman) Mack’s legislation passed because it would require her to go to court with her clients on probation much more often. The state has 43,000 people currently serving probation, and Mack’s proposal would add thousands of court hearings every year. “There are not enough hours in the day for probation and parole officers to do all the things they have to do already,” said Norris Henderson, a former Angola inmate who advocates for sentencing changes. Part of the criminal justice overhaul last year was supposed to lighten the caseload for parole and probation officers and allow them to focus more on those people who are most likely to violate probation or need help. The Mack legislation would unwind that part of the criminal justice package.
Number of the Day
2.9 percent– Growth in personal income for Louisiana in 2017. The national income growth was 3.1 percent (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)