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|Tax cuts needed; teacher pay raises can wait for now|
There are 27 bills under consideration in the regular legislative session that tinker with the income tax hikes which took affect when voters approved a constitutional amendment some five years ago called the "Stelly Plan."
Many of those bills, such as the one sponsored by Rep. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, call for income tax rates to be rolled back to the pre-"Stelly Plan" days.
Walsworth's bill is a good one, as are many of the bills that advocate giving the taxpayers of Louisiana some relief in light of the state's roughly $2 billion budget surplus.
There is a movement, though, to thwart the tax-cut proposals.
That movement is being led by people in the education community, ranging from the elementary and secondary level to individuals and the like in higher education. The teacher unions are involved, too.
Many of those people support another course of action for the Legislature to take in dealing with the budget surplus. That course of action would entail lawmakers using some of the budget surplus for teacher pay raises and increased spending for the state's colleges and universities.
We are quick to admit that classroom teachers in Louisiana should be paid more money. We also acknowledge the state's colleges and universities lag behind our neighbors in the Deep South in being properly funded.
We have a problem, though, with the manner in which the money the state spends on education on an annual basis is distributed to the various public school systems throughout Louisiana.
We think it's flawed.
We think too much money is wasted on salaries for people in education who do not stand in the classroom each school day, actually teaching children.
We also think too much money is wasted by local school districts in its efforts to adhere to guidelines mandated by the state and federal governments. That money, too, could be used in a more proper fashion if it reached the classrooms.
As far as higher education is concerned, obtaining a college degree shouldn't be cheap.
If the state's colleges and universities are in such dire straights for more money, a tuition increase might be in order. Running and whining to the Legislature at every turn should be a last resort.
Those are just a few of the flaws legislators and the governoróregardless of who it isóneed to tackle before the state appropriates one penny more for education in Louisiana, including teacher pay raises.
In short, some house cleaning is order.
It's long overdue.
While it may be less than popular to tell the education community that it needs to clean up its own act, we would be remiss if we didn't point out that staging rallies on the front steps of the capitol in Baton Rouge does more harm for public support for education than it generates.
For the lack of a better description, an ungrateful lot comes to mind.
In the meantime, it would be a grossly irresponsible act if the Legislature didn't pass a tax cut in the regular session to put more money in the pockets of the people of Louisiana.
The people created the surplus; they are ones who should benefit from it through a tax cut that places more money directly into the pockets of the people themselves.
To that end, the state can afford to cut taxes, while more money for education should be placed on the backburner until a new governor and a new Legislature take office in early 2008.
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