LEGISLATURE

Sen. Robert Marionneaux, Jr. D-Grosse Tete, left, teases Gov. Bobby Jindal, right, during a press conference on the repealing of the Stelly Plan at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, May 14, 2008.

Political pundits predict gridlock in Louisiana for the next four years. What a bleak forecast for our struggling state! The people of Louisiana deserve better.

Louisiana can't afford four more years of the gridlock game with each political party preoccupied with scoring points against the other while Louisiana's future is forgotten.

Unfortunately, there are early signs the pundits might be right. Jindal-era lawmakers have secured leadership positions in the House and Senate. These Jindal holdovers are members of the infamous Jindal-era Legislature that started with a billion-dollar state surplus and ended with a $2 billion deficit, a cut of $700 million to higher education and a plunge to last place in the nation.

Why does anyone believe that these Jindal holdovers can improve Louisiana when they have already been given that chance and failed big time?

In a move reminiscent of the Jindal years, a group of lawmakers are already urging a cut in the state sales tax. Recall the first legislative session of Jindal's first term. There was a stampede to repeal the Stelly tax plan that had produced a surplus.

A wise state senator from Vermillion Parish suggested that Stelly should be repealed slowly, over a period of years, until state income matched state expenditure. The repealers would have none of it and Stelly was history. Soon cracks began to appear in the state budget. The repealers then said, "We can do more with less" to which former Gov. Blanco replied, "No, you will do less with less." She was right.

The big elephant in the room, the sacred cow that lawmakers are afraid to touch remains all of the dedications in the Louisiana Constitution and in the statutes leaving higher education and health care unprotected and the only areas that lawmakers will cut when there is a deficit.

For Louisiana to emerge from the abyss all dedications except K-12 should be repealed. State funding can then be prioritized with entities most important to the state's future funded first without input from the too-powerful special interests.

Our state has too much potential to remain stagnant. One day, with the right leadership, Louisiana's day will come. If the pundits are right it won't be in the next four years. Let's hope the pundits are wrong.

HOWARD FRANQUES

retired lawyer

Lafayette

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