Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on a systemwide University of Louisiana program to help students return to college:
The prime candidates for enlarging Louisiana’s pool of college graduates aren’t just kids fresh from high school.
They’re also like Brikinya McZeal, who is 35 and had 47 hours in college, but moved into the workforce without getting a secondary degree. Now, because of Compete LA, a promising new program of the University of Louisiana system, she is taking online courses with a view to getting the business management diploma that would help her with her career.
For Jim Henderson, who heads the University of Louisiana system, that is the kind of student who can return to higher education either through online courses or in person.
That’s good for the nine UL System universities, since paying customers help the bottom line. But the way Henderson has structured the program is sensitive to the fact that someone like McZeal — now a manager at Verizon — has a higher expectation of customer service that the college must meet.
We like that particular aspect of the Compete LA program. A “coach” will help returning students navigate the system, “doing most of the legwork,” as McZeal said, to make re-entry to college as painless as possible.
For the world of government, customer service can be a difficult concept to embrace. But Henderson’s campuses have thousands of students who for many reasons take some courses, even several years’ worth, and do not end up with a degree.
Two-thirds of those who left college without a degree live in the Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Acadiana areas, Henderson’s data shows.
Henderson said adults already juggling jobs and child care responsibilities can see their back-to-college plans squashed with questions about transcripts and parking fines.
“Any one of those barriers is enough to derail them for the next several years,” Henderson said during a recent meeting with our editorial board.
We applaud this initiative and also welcome a similar one from the community college system to try to develop data on who’s not finishing a program — and can perhaps return to complete a job-enhancing degree.
UL System campuses, like others in the state, have a problem with completion rates of traditional students, too. It’s expensive to give the one-on-one attention that can make a difference to a student ready to give up after a year or two in college. Some of those students have challenges a college can’t resolve, but those who are helped add to Louisiana’s population of folks ready to face the uncertain economies of this century with greater confidence.
Those with college degrees tend to earn higher salaries and have more options in the job market. Helping more Louisianans finish college is a win for them, and the state, too.
American Press on how Louisiana can become friendlier for business and boost the economy:
CNBC recently named Kansas No. 19 on its list of America’s Top States for Business, according to Americans for Tax Fairness. The rating came as a surprise because Kansas, like Louisiana, seven years ago cut taxes for the wealthy and suffered nine rounds of budget cuts, three credit downgrades and missed state payments.
Kansas also tapped into state reserves set aside for future spending, postponed construction projects and pension contributions and cut Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income Americans.
Louisiana repealed a 2002 income tax increase in 2008. The tax reductions in both states came at the request of former Republican Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sam Brownback of Kansas. The GOP also controlled the legislatures in both states.
The day of reckoning for Louisiana came in 2016 when Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards inherited a $2 billion shortfall when he took office. With the help of Republican legislators, tax increases totaling $1.6 billion saved the day and helped create a small surplus three years later.
Kansas’s legislators didn’t wait for a change of governors. In 2017, they repealed the earlier tax cuts, overrode the governor’s veto and turned a $350 million deficit into a budget surplus by the end of 2018. Kansas also elected Laura Kelly, a Democratic governor who took office in January.
Louisiana is a long way from becoming a top state for business, ranking in the bottom 10. However, the Pelican state is No. 2 in the South for Economic Development Efforts. The Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) credits the No. 2 rating to the fact the state’s industrial sector has been here a long time and the area is more welcoming to that kind of industry.
How does the state improve its business rating? CABL said those ratings are based on 10 indicators, and Louisiana earns no better than a “D″ on eight of them. The two strong points are the cost of doing business and the cost of living. The other areas are workforce, infrastructure, education, business friendliness and the overall strength of the state economy.
CABL said, “So, the question is, are we willing to look at the challenges highlighted by things like the CNBC rankings and take the steps we need to propel us forward?”
Louisiana is overdue at making that commitment, and we have to realize that changes won’t come overnight. However, the approaching statewide election is a perfect time to tell the candidates we want public officials who are willing to begin making the tough choices necessary to eventually get us there.
The Houma Courier on a new program to channel federal funds into coastal restoration projects:
Several Louisiana members of Congress are leading the effort to funnel more of the federal money generated in the Gulf of Mexico to the coastal states that so much to support the offshore industry.
“Louisiana is battling the largest historical, ongoing and prospective loss of coastal wetlands we’ve ever seen, and it’s a national crisis,” said Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge.
And that is no exaggeration. Our problem is dire, and it will only get worse as we wait to give it the attention it needs and deserves. Not only is our coast washing away and sinking, but the water is rising around it. All the while, we are left increasingly vulnerable to every passing storm.
We have already seen that our natural defenses, the barrier islands and coastal marshes, now offer just a fraction of the protection they once held. And each storm further damages them and erodes their ability to help us in the future.
The money the state gets from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, is used for coastal restoration and protection. And even with the Gulf Coast states dividing about 37.5 percent of the offshore royalties companies pay the government to drill in the Gulf, we aren’t getting the same cut as states with onshore oil operations. Those states get 50 percent of the government revenue generated.
Graves and others are seeking to ramp up the money Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states get through GOMESA, a common sense approach to a problem that has afflicted our state with no appreciable response from the federal government.
Louisiana is facing a fight that will determine whether and for how long our children and grandchildren can continue to live here.
GOMESA money represents one way the federal government can help us in the fight, even if this money doesn’t come close being the level of spending we will need if we hope eventually to win the war.
It is money that Louisiana can leverage to make some progress toward its ambitious multi-decade plan to do as much as it can afford to do to keep people along the coast safe from future storms. This is a fight that makes sense and could save property, lives and land. The federal government should stop talking about taking the money from the coast and concentrate on finding ways to spend more on this worthwhile cause.