Thursday, 21 June 2018 15:30

Geymann talks Louisiana budget misalignment: Jindal, Higher Ed, Medicaid

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edwards jindal 6Is there some way that Louisiana can gets its budgetary house in order? What is the problem? Did it begin under current Governor John Bel Edwards?  Is Medicaid the culprit? Can we reform higher ed?

On Tuesday, I discussed the budget with former State Representative Brett Geymann, a budget hawk, who was term-limited and who left the legislature after the 2015 election.  Geymann believes that the state budget should be tied to the economy and we will publish his thoughts on this tomorrow, as we went more into detail on that issue in the latter part of the Facebook, Twitter and Youtube Live discussion.

Towards the end of the first post which we published Tuesday afternoon, we talked about how higher education and healthcare were getting cut. Below is part two of that discussion. You can watch the entire video below: 

SABLUDOWSKY: Definitely I mean this there's no question about that and so is the culprit the Medicaid expansion then? 

GEYMANN: Look, I think that's going to cause problems moving forward I don't know how much of a problem that's causing currently. But this has been going on for years, this this is one of the arguments we had with Governor Jindal. I mean this is not something that just all of a sudden today we have no money and we're spending more than we have, we've been doing it and and the Jindal administration would use games and gimmicks, using one-time money, they would sell property, they would take lawsuits, they would sweep funds, they would do anything they could to find the revenue to avoid,  having to make devastating cuts, but they never fixed the problem. 

They never aligned the economy with government spending. And look by the way, it's a Republican talking point to say government spends too much. Whether we are or aren't has never been measured. And we measure that and then we figure out at some point how we transition into letting the economy catch up with what government spends. I'm not suggesting and I'm probably one of the most fiscally conservative people in the legislature at the time, and probably even today if I was there, I'm not suggesting that we just close everything down tomorrow. 

What I am suggesting is that we do something to let the economy and state spending link up together, be indexed together, so that we have stability moving forward and we're not constantly going back to the people or the citizens of the state and trying to generate more revenue because we have already spent the money. And it's just a, it's just something that has to be done at some point, because if we pass a half cent sales tax for renewal today or this week I can almost assure you that next year at this time we're going to be having a very similar conversation again.  And if not probably within the next two years having the same conversation.  We're never going to have the right amount of money at the rate of spending that we're doing now, unless the economy for some reason  just totally takes off at a miraculous rate. 

SABLUDOWSKY: Okay so we have some questions and comments we have one from Tim Allen Matthews and he says funding higher ed, in what elective does it help develop? I'm not sure what  he means about elective, but maybe in specific courses but maybe in specific courses but not general studies--okay so he's talking about elective in terms of education-- so which raises I think raises an interesting question and that is that--and you talk about  maybe our appetite is  bigger than what we can afford to eat, and so do we need all these courses elective courses and general education etc-- shouldn't we  focus more on those courses that are going to  be the sciences and math and engineering etc where you can actually get a job?  So is that an area where  the the intent is great to educate everybody, but the problem is that we can't afford it. 

GEYMANN: Well maybe so. I  that's something that the higher ed leaders are going to have to determine and as far as again the amount of available revenue they have, whether--, I know, when I was in a legislature we had conversations about different University specializing in different fields. And so, in other words, let's take the  two rivals here UL and mcnesse which are an hour apart from each other, that's that's a little far to drive every day to school, but yet they're close enough to where there's a lot of competition between the two schools on on on the students that are in this area and making a choice.  

Do I go to Lafayette UL or do I stay and go to Lake Charles and go to Mc Neese.  Is it, do both schools need to be doing the same thing? And that's always kind of been the argument  should UL specializing something and mcnesse specialized in something else and then and then maybe we reduce the cost of operating those two universities. And, but I think those conversations have taken place, I think that leaders of the higher education system have done a good job and are trying to do a good job. 

I know under the Jindal administration that  they tried to move students into community colleges and technical colleges,  in many cases in utilizing that. I know that we've grown that a lot, so  I'm not out here criticizing the higher ed system at all, I think they have some fine folks in there. Is it top-heavy? Yeah probably so. I mean this to be honest, probably so, but probably every agency is top-heavy, but but how we how we fund it and at what level and what each university does, how many universities do we need, all those are great questions and and honestly I think this should be heavily debated. 

When I was in the legislature we tried to merge SUNO and UNO universities that were right next door to each other and and we and we found out right then and there that that's gonna be a very hard thing to do to close down a university or merge one because people are very passionate about their campuses, especially when it's the economic development point of their communities, in many cases and no one wants to turn loose of their university and let it be merged or closed. 


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So the political reality is that that probably doesn't happen. And so then next question is what do we do from here? And all these are great questions, all of these are very tough questions, to answer I think they're all worthy of debate, but I go back to the same point, until we have the budget index to the economy in some way, I think we always have these issues, because it's going to be much easier for us to make a decision as a state on how we fund, and what we fund, once we know, what our, what our economy can sustain.  And I'm not trying to sound like an economic guru because I'm not. But what I am saying is, I know for a fact that we can't keep on the path that we're all now. Or we're going to keep coming back to the voters for more and more revenue as time goes on. 


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