Much on the line this session

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 6, 2013

Although the Louisiana Legislature convenes Monday for what promises to be a tempestuous session storm clouds have been gathering for months.
At the center of the storm will be several proposals by Gov. Bobby Jindal, many of which have already been tirelessly debated in the court of public opinion.
Perhaps most controversial is Jindal’s ambitious and controversial plan to eliminate the state income tax and corporate tax and replace it with a nearly 50 percent hike in the state sales tax. That proposal has drawn the ire of both parties, even some of the governor’s political allies who understand sales tax increases have the greatest impact on those who can afford it the least.
However, the tax proposal is just one of several topics up for debate. Healthcare, which has endured massive budget cuts because of the governor’s decision not to buy into the national health care program, will likely undergo the budget scalpel once again.
Education reform must also be addressed, as educators and parents await two Louisiana Supreme Court decisions that will have far-reaching effects. The court should soon rule on the legality of the governor’s revolutionary voucher system as well as reforms that would hold educators more accountable for their performance in the classroom.
Both are cornerstones of Jindal’s education reform package.
Legislators face a daunting task attempting to balance a revenue-deprived budget. But where those cuts should come from will fuel the flames of dialogue and compromise.
Serving as a backdrop to this session is the governor’s potential political ambitions. Many of the reforms he is now pushing would polish his national resume should he elect to jump into the 2016 presidential arena.
However, this session is not about the governor, nor should it be. Rather, the next two months should about lawmakers establishing common ground and leading the state forward.
The gavel dropping Monday should not only signal the opening of the session but also legislators checking their partisanship at the door. State finances are too dire and the stakes too high for lawmakers to stand on their own ideologies to block progress.
It will be a session of great
interest and one that may not
only define the governor’s legacy but also determine his political future.