Thursday, March 12, 2009

Business Report whacks Jindal for higher ed cuts

Baton Rouge Business Report, which usually waxes ecstatic over Governor Bobby Jindal and his agenda, instead whacks the governor and economic development director Stephen Moret in this article.

The caustic column, entitled "Dumbing Down Higher Ed," points out the economic successes of states that properly fund higher education, in comparison to the grinding poverty of our own state.

The object of editor J.R. Ball's ire is the governor's proposed $219 million, 15.5% cut to higher education. Noting that our colleges and universities were already underfunded when the state was flush, Ball writes,

How can they justify proposing that the LSU System, for example, take a $101
million hit from its $646 million general fund budget? This is on top of the $29
million cut the system was handed earlier this year. Does anyone really believe
it's in the best interests of this state to cut the flagship university by
nearly $35 million?

In the past, critics of higher education cuts were greeted with a shrug and a "what else can we do? Higher education and health care are the only budgets that aren't dedicated."

Ball demolishes that hoary meme, pointing out that the vast majority of the dedicated funds in the state budget are statutory, meaning they can be un-dedicated by a simple vote of the legislature. Only a relatively few funds are protected in the constitution and can't be changed except by amendment.

Putting it another way: those "dedicated funds" are the fig leaves that leges use to cover their private agendas. They could cut them if they want to.

Of course, if that same legislature hadn't approved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tax cuts last year, we might not be talking about cutting higher education at all.

No comments: