To reform or not to reform

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It really is the question – in Louisiana, that is. Right now, Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state Legislature are deciding which course of action to take regarding Jindal’s proposals to reform both the education and pension systems in the state. Here’s the problem: there is no scenario in which everyone wins.

Regarding the education reforms being touted by Jindal, I don’t see where the anti-reformers have too much of a leg to stand on because the current education system in Louisiana is doing a mediocre job at best and failing future generations at worst.

Therefore, I find it hard to believe the arguments to keep the system as it is to appease the teachers around the state will work on the legislators. That being said, the teachers unions are powerful and will close down schools as many times as it takes to protest at the state Capitol until they get their way.

The other elephant in the room is the governor’s aggressive first step in reforming and restructuring the state’s overburdened pension system that is getting closer to marching off the fiscal cliff. Jindal is proposing an increase in the age to qualify for retirement and a 3 percent increase in the amount state employees contribute to the retirement fund. State employees want neither, but it seems that both are needed to keep the entire pension system from going bankrupt.

The problem for the state employees is that a majority of the public works in the private sector enjoys nowhere near the retirement packages currently available to state employees, so they will have a tough time swaying public opinion in their direction. As far as pension reform goes, if the state legislators can stand the heat from the state employees, they’ll enjoy a cool applause from the public for their reform efforts.

Jindal has more friends in the Legislature this term than he did last year, and his plans are obviously to build a national reputation as a reformer who took on the teacher unions and won while simultaneously reforming a bloated and over-leveraged pension system and balancing a budget. If he and the Legislature are successful this term, they will all probably face stiff political opposition in the future despite having saved the state from falling off the educational and fiscal cliff in coming years. Unfortunately, making decisions that are painful at the moment to allow for better days ahead isn’t a virtue in politics, merely a talking point.

The last bite…

Friday, I had one of the worst meals I have ever eaten with the absolute worst service imaginable. We went to Root in the New Orleans Warehouse District with a group of friends and almost three hours later were served food that completely disappointed, drinks that took 45 minutes to prepare and had to ask five times for the check. They combined everyone’s appetizers onto one plate so it had to be shared whether you wanted to or not! I give Root in the Warehouse District, 1 out of 5 crumbs!

Buddy Boe, a resident of Garyville, owns a public relations and program management company and is well known on the local political (and food) scenes. His column appears Wednesdays in L’Observateur.