Communities are already in crisis as a direct result of fiscal policies over the past few years. In recent weeks, school systems in Livingston, Tangiphoa and Webster Parishes declared financial emergencies. In the past few days, school boards in St. Martin and East Baton Rouge parishes announced that they will lay off employees.
The loss of those jobs will have a ripple effect that is felt throughout local economies, as former teachers and school employees cut back on their spending, trying to make ends meet. Local businesses will suffer, and sales tax collections will go down. It seems like the beginning of a death spiral for communities across the state.
As always, the poor and at-risk are the first to feel the pain. Those most in need of public services will be hammered by this budget. Some education programs for at-risk youth will cease. Outpatient pharmacies for the poor will close. Care at charity hospitals will be reduced.
But the budget plan doesn’t limit the damage to the poor. At the same time that the governor pledges not to raise any taxes, he is proposing a $100 million increase in the cost of higher education tuition and fees, a cost directly borne all Louisiana’s families, whether or not they can afford it.
After those students graduate, they face life in a state with closed parks, shuttered museums, rutted roads and rickety bridges.
In increasing numbers, those college graduates are leaving Louisiana to build their futures in states with better qualities of life.
That’s not an exaggeration. Experts recently reported that by the year 2030, there will be almost no women of childbearing age in our cities. At the same time, there will be a huge increase in the number of citizens aged 85 or older.
As demographer Eliott Stonecipher told reporters, “It’s about jobs and lifestyles and salaries. We know that. Someone has to say: ‘We have to do something.’”
Fewer young people and an aging population. Already, we know that Louisiana will lose a Congressional district this year.
These problems are the direct results of choices made by state leaders over the past few years. We believe that making better choices can bring us better results. As the legislative session approaches, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers will continue to discuss those options and work with legislators on balanced, fair solutions.
JFrom: Just the FAX which is a newsletter sent to state legislators each Friday from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
Issues are available online at http://la.aft.org.
Louisiana Federation of Teachers
Steve Monaghan, President