|12th Week of the Regular session - June 23, 2008|
|Monday, June 23 2008 - 9:12 am|
There are only a few more days left and this session will be over. The issue on everyone’s mind is legislative pay raises but there is a lot else to focus on, much of which is positive.
The Workforce Development program which is a keynote piece of legislation for the governor will become law. This program, when enacted, will allow Louisiana to be a fast moving , hard hitting, quick reacting state when it comes to training its citizens for new job opportunities. This program started shortly after the storm and was the brainchild of LABI under the leadership of its president Dan Juneau. Blueprint Louisiana came on board and became an integral part of the plan and the rest is history. Secretary of Labor, Tim Barfield, has assembled a team capable of getting this job done.
The $300 million mega fund is in place to aid in the recruitment of new businesses to our great state. Many of the pieces for success are now in place. Please thank Governor Jindal for his leadership.
Education was foremost on the minds of this governor and legislature during the session. We are all determined to lift Louisiana from an educational worst to an educational best. The MFP formula which was mandated to be funded at an additional $55 million actually received over $90 million. This allowed for some special programs to help our “at risk” kids and to reward academic achievement while keeping our teachers pay at the southern regional average. Much of the success of these programs will ride on the shoulders of a very talented man named Paul Pastorek. I intend to watch carefully what he does and hold him accountable for achieving outstanding results. It is part of his commitment to the people of Louisiana. The operations of the entire school system are overseen by BESE and I am very pleased to have Penny Dastugue as the Governor’s appointee to that Board. She brings a lot to the table.
The Budget is always an issue to be watched. John Schroder and Kevin Pearson did an outstanding job on the House Appropriations Committee by working with the administration to hold the line on spending. This was my first time sitting on the Senate Finance Committee and I must tell you it is a lot to wrap your arms around. I believe we are living in wonderful times in Louisiana. The price of oil has invigorated our economy much more so than other states. We saw the same optimism in the mid 1980’s only to have the oil bust bring this state to its financial knees. I believe Louisiana needs to reduce the size of government by cutting employees not necessarily just programs. More on that later. In previous years the budget was set to have “recurring expenses” funded by “one time money.” Those type of expenditures have been eliminated this year – that is a good thing!!!
The word is coming through pretty strongly that there will be another Special Session in January to deal with the surplus. The amount of the surplus is determined by the Revenue Estimating Conference which will project the revenues for the state, probably in December. I believe the Special Session will be called to spend those additional surplus dollars. The Legislature could have easily spent more money this year by voting to break the spending cap but it was not even mentioned as a course of action. It is significant to note that the legislature will go home with a lot of money available to spend but yet unspent. Please congratulate your legislators for holding the line on spending.
Maura and I are heading up to Baton Rouge Sunday afternoon for a committee meeting followed by the start of a floor session at 3:00pm. One of the committees I serve on is Senate and Governmental Affairs. This powerful committee has several functions. One will be to handle the redistricting of the state following the 2010 census. This afternoon what we will again be doing is reviewing the appointees to all the boards and commissions of the state. Every gubernatorial appointee including all the department heads must first be evaluated and recommend by this seven member committee before being presented to the entire senate for confirmation.
I will recap the year for you shortly after the session.
JOHN (JACK) DONAHUE, JR., P.E.