- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

April 22

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on state receiving “Obamacare” funds:

Reuters news agency reported that Gov. Bobby Jindal accepted $60 million in federal funds provided under “Obamacare,” while at the same time criticizing the health care law every chance he got.

The same is true of several other Republican governors running for president. The Reuters story said Jindal and three other governors eyeing the White House - Scott Walker, of Wisconsin, and Chris Christie, of New Jersey, and now former Gov. Rick Perry, of Texas - accepted federal aid from the health care bill, to the tune of at least $352 million.

In fact, as Jindal and LSU health officials pointed out - rightly, we believe - the charge of hypocrisy does not bear scrutiny.

The funding had been coming to Louisiana through federal grants, but in the legislative process in Congress was made part of, or modestly changed, in the Affordable Care Act.

Of Louisiana’s funds, some $50 million is related to a nurse family partnership multiyear grant program that has been in place since 1999, said Frank Opelka Jr., chief of staff at the state Department of Health and Hospitals. Nurses go to the homes of pregnant women and those with young children, he said.

Other funding cited in the Reuters report included $1.25 million for a medical school student loan repayment program that rewards physicians who opt to practice in rural settings and five or six public health grants for such things as HIV-AIDS treatment, quitting smoking and epidemiology, Opelka said.

Opelka said the state initially accepted about a $1 million grant to establish a state-based health insurance exchange allowed under the law. “It’s something we looked at doing but quickly realized it was not cost-effective and gave the money back,” he said. The money was returned in March 2011.

This does not seem to us to be hypocrisy but common sense.

If anything, we wish that Jindal had accepted more Affordable Care Act funds, as expansion of Medicaid insurance for the working poor would make Louisiana healthier at a cost heavily subsidized by the U.S. government. Christie to his credit backed that program in New Jersey.

Jindal may face some hard questions on the presidential campaign trail about the consequences of his policies in Louisiana. These relatively small federal grants don’t rise to the level of an issue in our view.




April 17

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on education crucial to meet job demands:

Jobs abound not only here in our corner of the state, but across Louisiana.

The most recent report from the Louisiana Workforce Commission showed that the Lake Charles metropolitan area had a record 102,000 jobs. Job numbers in Louisiana have grown every month since December 2010, giving Louisiana a total of 2 million jobs.

Two Louisiana leaders recently highlighted a troubling state trend, though: Many of the state’s working residents aren’t qualified for positions that are becoming available.

Almost half of the annual job openings require a post-secondary credential, and 38 percent require some college, Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, and Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said in a column they co-wrote.

Alarmingly, far less than the state’s 2.3 million potential workers meet those standards, the men said; 600,000 have no high school diploma and 1 million have no post-secondary credential.

Education has always been crucial, but Louisianans need it now more than ever.

As Waguespack and Sullivan said, “Without targeted and urgent action, hundreds of thousands of Louisianans will be unprepared to capitalize on this life-changing opportunity.”

To meet the demands, though, Louisiana’s technical colleges have been partnering with industry to prepare workers. Waguespack and Sullivan pointed to several areas of the state, including Lake Charles, as areas that are setting the trend.

“SOWELA is experiencing record enrollment in industrial trades to meet the dramatic expansion needs in the region,” they said. “Public-private partnerships abound with companies such as Capital One and Sasol to support the training and utilize a $20 million new regional training facility currently under construction.”

We urge all Louisianans to seize the moment and the opportunity.

Education, industry and business are working to provide training to those who can and will take advantage.

No economy is certain to continue strong forever, but both as a state and as individuals, right now in Louisiana is the time to build strong and prepare for whatever the future may hold.

After all, the state’s season of opportunity won’t really be all that grand if individually the residents don’t prosper as well.




April 17

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on state’s park budget:

In one ironic sense, the notion that Louisiana historic sites appear wilted and tired seems appropriate.

Louisiana weather can be humid, sultry and the idea that our aging plantations might pout and peel under the onslaught of our semitropical weather may be in character for what the old buildings face, decade after decade.

Crumbling brick? Softening wood? Strained bousillage? Welcome to paradise.

But when tired turns to tortured, when maintenance is too meager, when we patch and cover and not repair the treasures that dot Louisiana’s national parks, we risk losing part of what makes us unique.

Louisiana’s history is like no other in the U.S. References to our cultural gumbo may seem overcooked, but, truth be known, we are a marvelous place. It took centuries - millennia, really - and many peoples - French, Spanish, Americans, Haitians, Africans, Germans and more - to make us this special. From the ancient Indian culture at Poverty Point National Monument in Epps to the Chalmette Battlefield, where an army of Tennesseans, free blacks, pirates and French stared down Britain’s finest troops, Louisiana can relish its past.

We should not risk watching Louisiana’s historic treasures wear and waste away. It would be bad for business - the tourism business, which feeds us. It would be bad for our own self-esteem, which sustains us. It would be bad for the country, which needs exposure to our national parks.

National parks in Louisiana face a $13.7 million backlog of maintenance work that has put off until tomorrow - maybe longer - things that should have been addressed many yesterdays ago. Laura Gates, superintendent at Cane River Creole National Historic Park in Natchitoches, which includes some 65 buildings and structures at Oakland and Magnolia plantations, knows well the risks.

Some of the eight cabins built of soft brick are deteriorating at that park, victims of eroding brick and neglect. Those cabins housed slaves before the Civil War, sharecroppers later. Some cabins need repair on the bousillage at Oakland. There is considerable masonry work needed.

Here’s what is at stake in and around Natchitoches: “The most intact French Creole plantations anywhere in the United States.” Here’s what’s at stake elsewhere in Louisiana, including at Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, which includes six sites from New Orleans to Eunice: the Chalmette battlefield; three Acadian cultural centers, including those in Lafayette and Eunice; the French Quarter Visitor Center, where you can start your stroll around Jackson Square; the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park.

The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget calls for a $433 million increase for national parks. Will it help Louisiana sites? We need to know. If it does, we need to support it.



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