Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Courier of Houma on the midterm elections:
The elections are over, and, aside from a few races that are headed to runoffs next month, the officeholders have been selected by the voters.
This was an eventful election cycle, with so many issues and candidates on the ballots.
And nationally, there was plenty of partisan rancor to divide us among ourselves.
But here in Louisiana, it felt like the partisanship was secondary to the ideologies that drove most of the issues that were decided on Election Day.
Sure, there were candidates here and there who made the question of party an issue, but those were the exceptions rather than the rule.
Louisiana isn’t above the kind of partisanship that seems to be evident across our nation, but we do manage to steer clear of it in many instances.
And that is a good thing for the voters and the people these candidates serve and the people who must abide by the laws they and we help to make.
To everyone who took an active role in the electoral process, thank you.
From the elections commissioners who help so many of us cast our votes to the folks who helped make sense out of some of the more convoluted questions on our ballots, everyone did their part.
The voters turned out to make their voices heard. They did their civic duty, and they brought knowledge and understanding to the voting booths with them.
Finally, all the candidates deserve our thanks for putting their names out there and spending so much time, effort and money trying to make a difference in our communities.
Even if everyone were willing to vote, we would still need the brave and strong people who are willing to serve to be able select our representatives.
However the elections turned out for you - win or lose - thank you so much for showing the commitment necessary to run and, if elected, to serve in difficult, often thankless posts that are nonetheless necessary for the functioning of our various governmental subdivisions.
Tuesday gave voters around the U.S. a chance to do what people elsewhere would fight and die to be able to do - participate in our own government.
Thank you and congratulations to all who seized the opportunity to exercise our American right to vote.
The Advocate on teacher walkouts:
If the talk of walkouts of teachers and school employees has spread to Louisiana, it’s in part because such extreme actions have been successful elsewhere.
We don’t know if such tactics will work here, and we worry that the cause of increasing teacher pay and funding for public schools will suffer.
From Arizona to Oklahoma to Tennessee — all, it has not escaped notice, politically conservative as is Louisiana — strikes or other types of walkouts at schools have generated crises that often as not resulted in overdue attention to teacher pay issues.
Now, in Louisiana’s capital city, employees recently planned a Halloween protest walkout to pressure the East Baton Rouge School Board to revoke some tax exemptions for the ExxonMobil refinery and chemical complexes in the city.
The walkout was canceled after the items targeted by the unions were not on the agenda of the state Board of Commerce and Industry. That board grants the breaks, but subsequently they must be confirmed by local governments, typically councils, school boards and sheriffs.
Property taxes are, after all, local government revenues. The ITEP program has long been a case of state government giving away other people’s money. Yet there are wrinkles, in terms of policy and politics, that make it a difficult path forward for those who support paying teachers more.
For one thing, industrial facilities with big ITEP tax exemptions are not located in every parish. In New Orleans recently, the Orleans Parish School Board turned down an ITEP applicant from Algiers. However, unlike in St. James or St. Charles, or Baton Rouge-area parishes, rejecting ITEP applications is simply not going to be a big source of additional property tax revenues. The same is true of Lafayette Parish.
For another thing, the politics of rejecting exemptions in industrial parishes is not at all clear-cut.
Public bodies respond when their meeting rooms are filled with hundreds of workers from local plants who back ITEP exemptions because they will expand or keep open the facilities where they are employed. In many parishes, a drive against ITEP applications might lead to a backlash, creating a constituency against tax increases for teacher pay raises.
And that is the third wrinkle in all this. The teacher walkouts in other states have often been met with raises from the state level. That is particularly true in Southern states, where the state capital is one of the major sources of operating funds for schools; in many other states, the balance between state and local revenues going to the schools is different, with local taxes paying employees and state money used for buildings.
The money for day-to-day operations in state government today (is) routinely threatened today by partisan gridlock in Louisiana. Expecting state revenues alone to be the sources for future teacher raises is unrealistic, meaning that unions and others supporting increases have to be worried about local political implications of threatened walkouts, like those in Baton Rouge.
American Press of Lake Charles on national economic progress:
The jobs report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday shows the economic progress the national economy is enjoying is real and continuing.
The unemployment rate held firm at a 50-year low of 3.7 percent in October, and 250,000 new jobs were created by a growing economy. Economist had forecast 200,000 new jobs, so the extra 50,000 was indeed good news.
There was also good news about wage growth, with a 3.1 percent raise for America’s workers, which translates to an average $27.50 hourly pay rate.
Manufacturers added an impressive 32,000 jobs in a sector that was once thought to be in permanent decline. Health care led the job gains with 46,000; leisure and hospitality, 42,000; professional and business services, 35,000; and transportation and warehousing 25,000.
It was also good news that more workers are re-entering the now vibrant labor market, with those looking for jobs rising from 62.7 to 62.9 percent, which is the highest since July.
With such great economic progress being reported, this would be a good time for Congress to bring the national economy to the next level by passing the package of bills called “Tax Reform 2.0” Act. The reform bills have been passed by the House of Representatives are now in the Senate for consideration.
This would build on the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that has been so successful in boosting the economy.
The non-partisan government watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste said one of the bills, H.R. 6757, the Family Savings Act of 2018, would create small universal savings accounts where individuals could contribute up to $2,500 into the accounts on an annual basis.
“This best part: any withdrawals from these accounts would be tax free,” according to CAGW. “H.R. 6757 would also encourage retirement savings by making a number of reforms to existing retirement accounts. These changes include removing the prohibition that prevents individuals who have reached age 70 and one-half, from contributing to traditional Individual Retirement Accounts.”
This is no time to sit on our laurels. Passing Tax Reform 2.0 should be a high priority for Congress, without further delay.