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|Regular Session promises not to disappoint|
The Louisiana Legislature will convene its regular session Monday in Baton Rouge.
It promises to be an entertaining affair worthy of the price of admission, which is free to the public.
On a serious note, though, over the next couple of months lawmakers are expected to deal with a number of topics in an election-year session that will be dedicated to fiscal matters only. Legislators also are allowed to introduce up to five bills for consideration during the session that may fall outside the realm of financial concerns.
Thrown into the mix is the atmosphere of lawmakers bared from running for re-election because of term limits. Some legislators have plans to run for a legislative seat in the chamber opposite of the one they're serving in today. Thus, politics will play an even larger role in the decisions solons make.
Already some lawmakers have declared that they will tackle a number of controversial issues such as rolling back the state income tax hikes that evolved from the passage of the so-called Stelly Plan. Voters approved Stelly a few years ago in a Constitutional Amendment.
The Stelly debate certainly will produce a lively discussion about the desire among some members of the Legislature who will paint the debate as an effort to put more money in the pockets of the taxpayers in Louisiana. While we certainly are in agreement that the income tax hikes ushered into law by Stelly should be rolled back to the pre-Stelly era, we would be remiss if we didn't remind the citizenry that cutting taxes under the guise of rolling back Stelly would be nothing but an election-year ploy to curry favor with the voters on the home front in light of a more than $2-billion budget surplus in Baton Rouge.
On another budgetary matter, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who is not running for re-election this fall, wants the Legislature to use some of those surplus funds to raise teacher pay by some $3,000 per teacher. She believes the $3,000 pay raise will raise teacher salaries to the Southern Regional Average, an average that keeps moving about as our neighbors in the Deep South make efforts year in and year out to raise teacher pay in their respective states. It's an endless game of cat and mouse.
While we applaud Blanco for advocating better pay for teachers, we have a problem, though, with the manner in which money for teacher salaries is distributed. And until the state develops a plan that ensures more money for education reaches the pockets of the classroom teachers—instead of the administrators—any and all efforts to raise teacher salaries should be shelved. It's an issue that should be left for the next governor and a new legislative body to tackle after they take office in January.
There are many other important issues the Legislature will deal with in the session that begins Monday.
However, we feel that tax cuts, teacher pay raises and any other ideas dealing with the expenditure of the state's record budget surplus are the most pressing topics solons will handle in the 2007 Regular Session.
To that end, we want to remind the Legislature it was only some 25 years ago that the state enjoyed an embarrassment of riches like we do today.
The Legislature blew those budget surpluses then.
Lawmakers must not make the same mistake again.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|