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Louisiana editorial roundup

Associated Press Updated: January 28, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Jan. 28

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on rich history on Teche:

The story goes that the matron of The Shadows on the Teche, the antebellum landmark in New Iberia, was faced with a stark offer. Take the oath of allegiance to the United States and get food from the federal steamboats playing Bayou Teche. She thought this pledge a betrayal of her husband and sons away in the Confederate army and she died before the end of the war.

A romantic story, and her portrait can still be seen at the Shadows, now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

But the Teche endures in peace and war.

The recent designation of the Teche as one of the National Park Services' water trails is a recognition of the extraordinary history lived on and in bayou communities. It is not only a scenic waterway but one of great economic significance in the history of the state. It was a waterway of commerce for generations.

Now, with this designation, more people will be aware of the canoeing and other attractions of the bayou.

The water trail stretches 135 miles from Port Barre to Berwick, going through four parishes.

The national designation was sought by the TECHE Project, a nonprofit group launched in 2009 that has spearheaded several projects to clean up the bayou and make it easier to access and enjoy the waterway.

TECHE Project Executive Director Conni Castille said the national park system's designation could bring national attention, literally putting Bayou Teche on the map for tourists seeking a water adventure in south Louisiana.

"We hope it's an economic generator for all the communities," she said.

We agree. The Teche is in excellent company, one of fewer than 20 waterways in the park service's system. Let its traffic flourish in the years ahead.



Jan. 27

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on cheap gas:

The dramatic drop in the price of gasoline over the past six months is a mixed blessing for Louisiana.

Consumers are enjoying the lowest gasoline prices at the pump in years, around $1.80 a gallon for regular at present, locally.

State government, however, is receiving a jolt from the lower price of a barrel of oil, which will result in a drop in revenue if it persists all year long.

The oil and gas industry is a big segment of the Louisiana economy and those who work in the industry are being hurt by the precipitous drop in oil.

For the overall U.S. economy, it means more disposable income for families with the decline of every penny of gasoline pumping $1 billion back to consumers It also benefits energy-dependent transportation sectors, such as airlines and trucklines. That, too, can benefit consumers.

But in the long run there are downsides. It could mean fewer wells being drilled, which means fewer jobs for workers in the oil and gas industry.

It is hard to be enthusiastic about cheap gas when some of our fellow Louisianians are suffering layoffs.

According to a survey by S&P Ratings, if the oil price decline continues through 2015, the economies of the energy producing states, including Louisiana, will face difficulties.

Louisiana's assumed price of a barrel of oil at the time of adoption of its 2014 budget was $97, and that share of the state budget amounts to 13 percent. Louisiana has done a much better job than some other states in diversifying its economy and reducing its dependence on oil and gas.

For example, according to the S&P analysis, Alaska is the most dependent on the price of a barrel of oil. It passed its 2014 budget based on $105 per barrel oil, and the share of its state budget is 87 percent.

Loss of energy jobs could have a much greater economic impact than loss of other jobs. The New York Times reported that one energy job can have the purchasing power of three non-energy jobs.

So, consumers are now enjoying an unexpected windfall. But the lingering question is will that consumer windfall make up for a depression in the oil and gas industry?

Let us hope that a reasonable balance can be reached to keep the overall economy stable and prosperous.



Jan. 27

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on budget mess needs leaders:

A projected $380 million in budget cuts to Louisiana higher education next year may finish off the job that our elected and appointed state officials started seven years ago. Our system of state universities and community colleges may finally become battered beyond effectiveness.

The Jindal administration must accept its share of blame for what has happened to higher education on his watch, for many of the budget choices over the past seven years have initiated with his office. But the Louisiana Legislature, too, has stood by passively and allowed Jindal's budget choices to take effect.

Lawmakers are elected as part of an independent branch of government that has the responsibility to create budgets and the power to override the governor's veto. Instead, lawmakers have become the governor's meek budget enablers, allowing him to slash higher education funding by hundreds of millions of dollars over his two terms.

The cuts, if enacted, would "gut our universities and community colleges like a fish," State Treasurer John N. Kennedy said Friday. "We don't have to waterboard these schools." No, we don't. And our elected leaders ought to keep that from happening.

Consider that state budgets have grown from $12 billion under former Gov. Mike Foster to $19 billion under Gov. Kathleen Blanco to $25 billion under Gov. Jindal. The state has money, yet it is one of only a handful of states choosing to cut higher education spending — and by a greater percentage than any other state, Kennedy said.

In truth, many Louisianians have had a hand in undermining the financial stability of our state campuses. As a state, we have built some schools when we should not have. We have kept some schools — proven failures — open when they should have been closed. All that should be reviewed. But if we choose to keep schools open, we should enable them to be successful. This proposed budget would rob them of that chance.

Our higher education officials have a role, too. They should not couch their language in generalities but should speak candidly about the budget problems and be specific. If three University of Louisiana System institutions are on the brink of closing, tell us which ones they are and what they need to be saved.

Our lawmakers ought to meet in special session before the April 13 legislative session begins or should hold hearings around the state to make plans for higher education and form strategies to protect our campuses. Start today.

Lawmakers should draw up and review the entire state budget — line by line, item by item — and establish priorities.

Most importantly, the Legislature needs to find its own voice, its own sense of identity. Our system of checks and balances morally commands lawmakers, as a body, to check the governor's excesses and not kowtow to his annual budget whims and easy choices. It's time for lawmakers, our elected leaders, the people to whom we have entrusted our government and our tax dollars, to raise hell. Or catch hell at election time, if they don't.


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