Sunday, March 12, 2006


Spur of crisis fades for state?


The vast devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita would seem to be enough to concentrate the attention of even members of the Louisiana Legislature.

But the reality that we live with in Louisiana is that there remains a reluctance to change, and a comfort level in the State Capitol with business as usual.

Just look at the fate of reforms proposed to reduce the number of elected officials in malgoverned Orleans Parish. Those bills went nowhere. And they weren’t really that far-reaching.

After all, every parish in Louisiana is over-governed in terms of political baronies; Orleans is just much more so.

But in Louisiana, the spur to reform may be further enervated by the reports of an improved revenue forecast for the 2007 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

That budget may be illusory for a lot of reasons that have fiscal conservatives very worried. But even if it doesn’t last much beyond the upcoming session, a good budget forecast virtually eliminates chances that this Legislature will vote for tough reforms.

That’s just the political reality. “When you take the budget pressure off, you take away the pressure to make structural changes,” said Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

He noted in a talk to a Baton Rouge Area Chamber breakfast that Louisiana needed to do a lot in the way of change before the hurricanes. From the New Orleans’ surfeit of assessors to a university system “six miles wide and an inch deep,” Louisiana needed to do business better.

Alas, the political moment may be lost for that kind of landmark reform.

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