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Louisiana editorial roundup

June 13, 2018

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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June 10

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune says Louisiana’s budget must do right by its children:

As Louisiana lawmakers fight over fractions of a penny of sales tax in session after session, Louisiana children are struggling.

The latest report from Save the Children ranks Louisiana as the state with the worst conditions for children. Our state has high rates of infant mortality, violent deaths and teen births. We have too many children who lack sufficient food and too many children who fail to graduate from high school on time.

All of those poor measures put us at 50th in the Save the Children report, which was released May 30.

The ranking is no surprise. Louisiana is almost always at the bottom of rankings for the well-being of children.

The United Way of Southeast Louisiana found that 46 percent of working families in the state make too little money to cover basic necessities, including food. “They live above the federal poverty level but are forced to make tough choices like whether to pay for child care or to pay their rent. A single unexpected car repair, medical emergency or harsh storm can push ... families over the edge,” United Way leaders said in a letter to the editor to NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune Friday.

That is why it is maddening to watch the Legislature starve children’s programs of funding. The budget passed in the second special session of 2018 cut child welfare services, TOPS and higher education, all of which could put more pressure on young people. TOPS has been a moving target in the past few years, leaving families unsure how much they can count on from semester to semester.

The House refused to approve enough revenue to balance the budget, leaving it at least $500 million short and leading to a third special session. The hundreds of thousands of dollars they’ve spent to pay for special sessions could have gone toward badly needed services.

Advocates for young children have asked lawmakers for $10 million in state funding for early childhood education programs that are essential to getting children off to a good start in school.

There are 5,200 families on a waiting list for aid from the Child Care Assistance Program, which provides help for low-income working parents and for parents who are in school or job training. The program served almost 40,000 children 10 years ago, but only has money for 15,000 today.

Rep. Steve Carter, a Baton Rouge Republican, wanted to use part of the proceeds of the sale of unclaimed property to shore up the early childhood fund. But the treasurer wanted to use the money another way, and lawmakers rejected Rep. Carter’s proposal.

The current budget does include additional federal money for the Child Care Assistance Program, which would reduce the waiting list by 4,000 children. But the program needs state funding as well to rebuild. Also, the budget as is could leave pre-K programs for 4-year-olds short of money for the coming school year.

Lawmakers talked in committee meetings about the importance of increasing access to quality preschool. They claimed to understand how valuable it is for families and for Louisiana.

But then they went back to arguing over whether to lower the state sales tax to 4.5 percent or 4.33 percent starting July 1, when a temporary 1 cent tax is set to expire. The standoff is over a difference of 17 cents on $100 purchase.

The Senate favors 4.5 percent because it limits the damage to TOPS, higher education and the other programs targeted for cuts but still cuts the budget. The House leadership has dug in on 4.33 percent — even though most of their members voted for 4.5 percent. The top House Republicans seem most interested in denying Gov. John Bel Edwards what he wants.

As they return to Baton Rouge this month for a third special session, they should consider what their stubbornness means to Louisiana families. Scoring political points against the governor isn’t what is important. What matters is whether children in our state have a chance to thrive.

Every legislator should take to heart the plea in the United Way’s letter: “While these difficult decisions are being made, please remember that until all working people in this state are paid an equitable livable wage, we will need a strong safety net of social services to fill the gaps. ... In a global economy, the whole world is watching. We can encourage investment in Louisiana by investing in our own.”

The letter ends by asking state leaders to have the “courage and confidence to do what is right for Louisiana families.”

That ought to be easy to do.

Online: https://www.nola.com/

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June 8

The Courier of Houma advocates delving into Louisiana’s coastal plan:

There is no greater issue and challenge facing south Louisiana than its coastal future.

And you can learn a great deal about what the future will likely hold by taking a trip to your local library.

Threatened by a mixture of rising seas, sinking land and eroding shoreline, south Louisiana is fighting for its survival.

What we do in the coming years will have a direct bearing on how long our kids and grandkids are able to continue calling this place home.

After decades of neglect, recent years have seen a turnabout from the state government. And we now have an actual plan for moving forward in making as many coastal businesses and residents as feasible safe from future storms and erosion.

This isn’t an exact science, of course. And the state doesn’t have enough money everything that could be done to save our coast.

But the Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast is an excellent starting point for any discussion about our collective future.

And every public library in the state has a wealth of information about the plan, allowing anyone who is so inclined to learn about a daunting but interesting subject.

“The 2017 Coastal Master Plan recommends a diversity of projects to build land and reduce flood risk in order to balance short-term needs with long-term goals,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “It is our hope that all Louisiana residents, those who live on the coast as well as inland areas, can use the information provided to their local public library to better prepare their families and communities for a changing coastal Louisiana landscape.”

The plan isn’t sitting on a dusty shelf waiting to be decoded by the average resident. Instead, the kits are full of useful details that anyone - with any level of knowledge about our coastal challenges - will find informative.

In addition to a paper copy of the master plan, each library also has a digital copy that will allow library patrons to log onto a computer and scroll through a wealth of information. Each library also has a map of the planned projects and details on any that are locally significant. In our case, that applies to a large number of the projects.

If you want to learn more about the projects going on across the coast and particularly the projects being conducted or planned locally, just head over to your public library. Everything you need is waiting on you.

Online: http://www.houmatoday.com/

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June 12

The Advocate says Louisiana’s flooding worries are stronger than ever with slower moving storms:

Recent rains across south Louisiana have brought welcome relief from summer heat, and they’ve been a blessing for local yards, gardens and farms, too.

But as area residents know all too well, too much rain can be an agony of epic proportions. The Great Flood of 2016, which ravaged the Baton Rouge region, was caused by an unnamed tropical system that hung around for days, dumping inch after inch on a region that simply couldn’t handle so much water all at once. Hurricane Harvey, which hovered over Houston in a similar way last year, was another huge disaster.

That’s why a new study just published in the science journal Nature is so troubling. It concluded that big tropical storms are generally moving slower over land than they have in the past, which means more rain in a given area.

A single study can’t be viewed as conclusive, and this issue is obviously something that scientists are going to have to consider more closely. But if the trend proves correct, then communities like those across south Louisiana are going to have to do a better job with flood control systems and development policies. The stability of the federal flood insurance program, which is already challenged, could be in for greater strain, too.

The possibility of slower-moving storms is something Louisiana residents will have to monitor. As we’ve learned the hard way, just one mammoth rain-maker can mean misery for thousands.

Online: http://www.theadvocate.com/

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