At the panel discussion, on one side of the debate is Louisiana State Representative Jim Fannin, chair of the House Appropriations Committee; On the other side is state Senator Jack Donahue, who spearheaded the creation of the Louisiana Streamlining Commission and chaired the panel last year. Both will likely play a significant role in resolving what is being touted as a 1.6 billion dollar budget hole.
While there was general agreement that the budget must be cut and services be reduced, the two legislators had different views as to how healthcare and higher education funding should be impacted.
Donahue made a plea to save education and healthcare. Fannin stated that they must contribute to the reduction of state funding.
The Commissioner of Division of Administration, Paul Rainwater, also appeared on the panel but would not provide much details regarding what the upcoming executive budget would look like. However, he did acknowledge that the administration is considering the privatizing of the group benefit program and that currently, the issue is the value of that program. (See videos)
Louisiana’s Governor Bobby Jindal also weighed into the debate. During the luncheon, Jindal stated that he would not raise taxes.
Which presents the dilemma that the legislature, the governor and the public must soon face. Should funding be sharply reduced for these services, the likelihood would be that the citizens could be paying out of their own pockets the increases in higher education tuition and for the necessary healthcare services.
In addition to the budget issue, Jindal unveiled that he is pursuing legislation in the upcoming legislative session that will empower businesses to partner with new charter schools.
Modeled after Florida’s “charter schools-in-the-workplace” initiative, this legislation will enable businesses to provide a facility or land to a charter school—as well as partner with a school on career counseling, technical education, and mentoring—in exchange for a minority percentage of the school’s board seats and preferred enrollment for children of company employees. Governor Jindal made the announcement today at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s (LABI) Annual Meeting.
Governor Jindal said, “This new business-charter school partnership legislation will help feed the pipeline of qualified workers for Louisiana businesses while creating important career opportunities for students. Ensuring that every Louisiana student has a great education is the critical foundation to helping our children pursue the career of their dreams.”
The Governor said that his administration has already started reaching out to Louisiana companies, including CenturyLink in Monroe, for feedback on the new initiative.
In a press release the governor’s office stated that CenturyLink CEO and President Glen Post said, “This is a great innovation for expanding educational opportunities for our children and helping businesses succeed here in Louisiana. Companies like CenturyLink should benefit as programs such as this one help create a more qualified workforce in the future.”
During a press conference after LABI event, the governor indicated that Post likes the concept and has expressed interest in the program that would still require legislation. (see video below and photos of attendees at the LABI event)