Tuesday, May 3, 2011

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest - week 1

They’re off: session opens to grim fiscal news

Despite a looming $1.6 billion deficit, Governor Bobby Jindal opened the 2011 legislative session with a promise to allow no new revenues, saying that he would veto any bills that close any of the state’s 441 tax loopholes or call for new taxes.

Maintaining that curbing tax breaks would amount to a tax increase, the governor said “Tax increases kill jobs. Tax increases kill opportunities. Tax increases hurt economic development. Tax increases hurt our ability to attract new businesses into Louisiana.”

The problem is that it's just not true. If cutting taxes and slashing services was the right strategy for success, we would have high employment, low poverty, a healthy population and a robust, growing, well educated state.

To read more, please click here.

Better Choices coalition slates May 4 rally on capitol steps

In response to the governor’s speech, the Better Choices for a Better Louisiana coalition made a powerful case for raising new revenues for the state and announced a lobby day on the steps of the capitol at noon on Wednesday, May 4.

With Louisiana facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, coalition spokespersons said that Governor Bobby Jindal’s plan for more cuts without any new revenue cannot solve the state’s problems.

“Doing more with less” is a hollow promise,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said. “The state is not doing ‘more with less’; it’s doing less with less. The current budget proposal sacrifices education, health care and the quality of life issues that could provide a better future for the families of Louisiana.”

To read more, please click here.

Education coalition condemns Jindal’s education policies

Members of a public education coalition took issue with the Jindal administration's education policies at a press conference on Monday, April 25.

Following the governor's opening address to the legislature, members of the Coalition for Public Education said that Jindal and State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek are taking public education in the wrong direction, basing decisions on political ideology instead of good educational practices.

"After listening to the governor (in his address opening the legislative session) that the future is so bright, I had to put on my shades," LFT President Steve Monaghan said. "There's a different Louisiana out there. Class sizes are going up and salaries have been frozen."

To read more, please click here.

Jindal budget calls for selling the Office of Group Benefits

Lawmakers appear hesitant to endorse Governor Jindal’s plan to privatize the State Office of Group Benefits, one of the elements of his budget plan.

OGB, as it is known, handles health insurance coverage for about 250,000 current and retired state employees. That includes teachers and school employees in a number of school systems. The office, one of the best run and scandal-free operations in state government, has built up a $500 million surplus over the past few years. If the office is sold to a private company, insiders say the surplus could become available for appropriation into the state general fund.

Opponents say that privatizing OGB would hike insurance premiums for state employees and retirees. The office currently spends about three percent of its income on management costs. The same costs for a private company could be in the 10% to 15% range.

To read more, please click here.

Roemer calls for abolition of tenure

Chas Roemer, who represents the Baton Rouge area on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, sent lawmakers a letter requesting that they support the abolition of teacher tenure.

Roemer said that tenure “protects poorly performing teachers” in public schools.LFT President Steve Monaghan quickly responded, saying that Roemer’s statement shows an alarming ignorance of the facts on teacher tenure.

To read more, please click here.

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