- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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Jan. 23

The Courier of Houma on the impact of state police tech upgrades:

The Louisiana State Police lacks a basic police tool that is available to much smaller agencies across the state and around the U.S.



This state’s police vehicles lack GPS tracking devices, commonplace for public vehicles elsewhere.

Therefore, it is unable to track the locations of its troopers, leaving dispatching in the hands of people who must keep track of officers on paper and who must rely on simple guesswork and luck.

That is unacceptable. Even more troubling, it is just the most recent problem to surface, causing the public to questions the efficacy of the agency’s oversight.

Some high-profile scandals have hit the agency.

One officer was suspended after his on-duty sexual exploits were reported by his girlfriend after she was charged with a drug crime.

Another racked up $147,000 in overtime in 2016, much of it for time he was filmed by a television news crew at his own house.

In yet another, a group of troopers took off on an expensive road trip - for which some were paid overtime - to a conference in California that included a stop in Las Vegas.

While GPS tracking of police units will help supervisors keep tabs on their employees’ whereabouts, it will never be an acceptable substitute for good management.

In the above cases, a little competent oversight would have eliminated the problems.

Had their superiors not approved the useless road trip on the taxpayers’ dime, the traveling troopers would have been thwarted in their quest to waste state money.

And just a bit of questioning could have raised red flags about the $147,000 in overtime accrued by the trooper whose regular pay was less than $100,000.

But GPS tracking would give the State Police a common police tool that is bound to help oversee the troopers.

Even the acquisition of this ability, though, has been undermined by the State Police itself.

A spokesman this week said that the agency had the GPS purchase had been approved as part of the State Police’s budget last year. Mid-year budget cuts stripped it from the plans. However, the police did not request it in this year’s budget because officials thought it had already been purchased.

Access to a basic police tool will certainly be an upgrade for the State Police.

With that said, there are other, deeper problems afflicting the agency that will not be solved with this or any other technological upgrade.

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.

Online: http://www.houmatoday.com

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Jan. 21

The New Orleans Advocate on the effect of lower income taxes on state taxes:

Starting in 2018, Congress has decreed a tax cut for many American households. When you get your income tax cut in April 2019, be ready for a bit of payback in May. That’s because Louisiana gives a big tax deduction for federal income taxes paid, and if income taxes are lower, then the state payment goes up.

It’s a consequence of Louisiana’s law and is unusual, because Louisiana is one of just three states that allow individuals and some businesses to deduct 100 percent of their federal income taxes from the amount that they pay in state taxes.

The good news for Gov. John Bel Edwards and state legislators is that the Treasury should be getting more money from income taxpayers, but it is not entirely clear how much it will amount to. That’s because of the sweeping nature of the tax bill pushed by the GOP and written in considerable haste in Congress last month.

A number of back-of-the-envelope calculations in the State Capitol suggest it could be $200 million or more new state money. That’s not enough to eliminate the giant budget crisis looming as 2016’s temporary taxes expire on June 30. But it’s still not chump change.

“Obviously, that could help us resolve a portion of the cliff,” Edwards said, referring to the “fiscal cliff” the state faces if temporary taxes are not renewed or replaced by June 30.

However, it’s not an immediate windfall: Most people owing a lot of money will pay up in May 2019 for the 2018 tax year. Some other sort of bridge funding will be needed.

Is it a good idea to keep such a big tax break - the deduction costs the Treasury more than $1 billion every year - when other states don’t? Expert opinion probably leans to the view of the Public Affairs Research Council, which argued recently that it’s best to eliminate the deduction and use the money to cut income tax rates.

Edwards has not backed that reform idea, although he has backed other long-standing reform ideas proposed by a legislative task force.

Part of the problem is just practical politics: The deduction would be repealed by constitutional amendment, requiring a statewide public vote that is hard to get for such a complex issue.

Another issue is the nature of the new federal tax bill itself: Passed with scant Democratic support, it might not have staying power. Its provisions might well be revisited if the GOP loses its majority in the U.S. House or Senate, or both, in the fall elections.

Regrettably, we’re in an era of partisan disagreements where there isn’t enough compromise to deliver long-term tax policy that is sustainable and consistent, so that the private sector can intelligently plan for growth.

What is clear enough is that most people will still get a tax cut, just that in Louisiana it’s reduced by the higher amount of state tax.

Online: http://www.theadvocate.com/

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Jan. 22

Ruston Daily Leader on higher education funding:

The ongoing debate on how to fix the state budget continues in Baton Rouge.

Meanwhile, throughout the past decade, two areas continue to experience financial anxiety as a result of budget woes - health care and higher education.

Specifically relating to higher education, all Louisiana colleges and universities have felt a burden of the fiscal woes facing state lawmakers.

Time and time again, higher education institutes have seen their budgets slashed in order to save a state government on its heels.

Eventually, if not already, the state will begin to feel the burden of not investing in higher education.

However, in Lincoln Parish, local higher education institutes have turned toward nontraditional means of making investments in their own establishments.

Grambling State and Louisiana Tech Universities and Louisiana Delta Community College have looked toward their alumni and local business and corporations to invest in their futures.

Through alumni fundraisers and partnering with local industries to begin a two way street partnership, our higher education institutes may not feel as much of the burden.

And that’s a good thing. Because while the popular TOPS scholarship program continues to see its budget slashed as well, local higher education institutes are finding new, refreshing ways to recruit students in a highly competitive, saturated market.

The fight for higher education is not over. And if you believe state lawmakers should put more effort into putting more money toward higher education, now is the time to call your local state lawmakers.

However, as the future of higher education looks to be dim, local higher education institutes are taking the right approach in investing in their own institutes to better prepare their students.

While it may be nice to have that extra revenue flowing from the state, this active approach to finding new ways to stay competitive will not only benefit the local institutes, but also the community.

Online: https://www.rustonleader.com

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