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Louisiana Legislature only postponed the inevitable: An editorial

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From the New Orleans Times Picayune editorial staff

Louisianians hoping that the legislative session would yield long-term solutions for our state’s fiscal crisis were once again disappointed.

For the second year in a row, lawmakers only nibbled at the crisis and evaded the much needed debate on how to streamline Louisiana’s bloated government without crippling the state’s future. Instead, legislators passed a budget that very likely will force further cuts mid-year and only postpone the inevitable fiscal trauma brought about by growing deficits.

Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal are calling the new budget a responsible compromise, saying it makes significant cuts while preserving some public services in the short term. They note the new budget will eliminate about 3,000 state jobs, including 1,300 filled positions. They also made some changes to reduce the costs of retirement benefits for future public employees.

But they avoided more rapid reductions of the state’s bureaucracy to a size our economy can afford, such as state Treasury John Kennedy’s proposal last year to eliminate 15,000 state jobs over three years. They also rejected real reforms to the state’s overly generous retirement benefits, including a plan by House Speaker Jim Tucker to put future employees in defined-benefit options like the 401(k) plans prevalent in the private sector.

Lawmakers even rejected Gov. Jindal’s proposals to change budget rules to tap some protected funds during fiscal emergencies and to better spread the pain of fiscal cuts across the board. In the end, higher education and health care remained the easiest and likeliest targets for additional cuts. Legislators also stuffed $30 million in individual earmarks into the budget. It’s doubtful every pet project on the list serves enough of a public purpose to warrant financing, especially in these lean times.

The BP oil spill sucked the oxygen out of much of the legislative session and required much of the attention of Gov. Jindal, and that surely dimmed the prospects of real fiscal reforms.

Read the entire article here: http://mobile.nola.com/advnola/pm_29231/contentdetail.htm;jsessionid=979F937278D65B20CC360FFD42876C45?contentguid=CIdY8gha

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