Changing of the guard at LSU

Changing of the guard at LSU

LSU President F. King Alexander arrived at the state’s flagship university in 2013 at a time of unprecedented financial challenges, as public universities bore the brunt of the budget cuts pushed through the Legislature in the wake of the Great Recession and the tax cuts that accompanied it. As he departs for Oregon State University, LSU’s finances are relatively stable and faculty members recently received small pay raises after years of stagnation. But as  The Advocate’s Mark Ballard and Will Sentell report, Alexander believes the budget battles will soon return, which may have played a part in his decision to take a job with a university that is receiving a 12.3% funding increase over the next two years.  

He said the constant fighting for state appropriations wore him down, and he senses the battle will flare up again this spring in the state Legislature. “I do feel like we are going into another war zone,” Alexander said. “It’ll be another dog fight. But we’re not keeping up with the nation.” 


Pre-emption is a national problem
When Louisiana in 1997 became the first state to pass a law that bans cities and towns from setting their own minimum wage, legislators probably didn’t know that stripping away local control over basic decisions would soon become a national trend. As Route Fifty’s Bill Lucia reports, state governments around the country are seizing control over everything from local tax policy to guns and rent control, in addition to wages. But the National League of Cities is starting to fight back. 

It’s against this backdrop that the National League of Cities recently partnered with Temple University on a project to analyze preemption in 12 different policy areas, in all 50 states. This project culminated in an online tool, where it’s possible to select a state from a map of the U.S. and to then see details about how state laws preempt local ones in each place. 

‘The GDP is broken’
A team of economists at the U.S. Commerce Department is working on a new version of Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.), which would measure not just the overall size of America’s economy but also how that wealth is distributed among various income groups. New York Times columnist David Leonhardt explains why this long-overdue change would help explain the growing disconnect between the robust U.S. economy and the sour national mood: 

Americans are dissatisfied, and have been for years, largely because the economy as most people experience it has not been booming. G.D.P. — or gross domestic product, the economy’s total output — keeps on rising, but it no longer tracks the well-being of most Americans. Instead, an outsize share of economic growth flows to the wealthy.


‘Obamacare’ replacement is sputtering
A federal appeals court panel based in New Orleans could rule any day on a lawsuit by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and others that seeks to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Though the U.S. Supreme Court would almost certainly have the final say, an unfavorable ruling would jeopardize health care coverage for more than 400,000 adults on Medicaid and hundreds of thousands of others who would be at risk of losing their health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. The Advocate’s Matt Sledge and Sam Karlin report that plans for a ‘high-risk’ insurance pool that Landry billed as a replacement for the federal law are still on the drawing board. 

(O)fficials acknowledge that Louisiana still doesn’t have a firm plan to fill the gap that would be created by the loss of more than $400 million a year in federal funding for its individual market. That is where nearly 100,000 Louisianans who don’t otherwise get coverage through the government or their employer buy health insurance; the vast majority of them receive subsidies to offset the costs. That’s not to mention $3.5 billion annually in federal money to expand the Medicaid program that would also go away if the Affordable Care Act is tossed out.


Quote of the Day
“Coming from Southeast Ohio, it’s a very very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average, and there are so many people there that don’t have a lot. And I’m up here for all those kids in Athens, and Athens County that … go home to not a lot of food on the table. Hungry after school. You guys can be up here too.” 


Number of the Day
$187 million – Amount that California is spending to help boost participation and produce an accurate count in the 2020 U.S. Census, which helps determine the distribution of political power and federal funds. Texas is spending no public money, though local philanthropy is picking up some of the slack (Source: The New York Times)