The GOP's national leadership - including the presidential candidates stumping today in Louisiana - may be uninspiring, but the GOP governors continue to roll. Bobby Jindal last night just scored another victory with the passage through the Louisiana House of a landmark school choice bill (the bill still awaits action from the LA Senate), before proceeding to debate a second bill that tightens teacher tenure standards:
In a victory for Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday night that would expand state aid for some students to switch from struggling public schools to private and parochial classrooms.
The vote was 61-42 after nearly 12 hours of debate.
Jindal still faces a tough fight - some of the legislators who voted for the bill also voted for an amendment limiting the use of local (as opposed to state) tax dollars for vouchers that could cross local district lines, and opponents are vowing a constitutional challenge. But then, reform is never easy.
For more on why Jindal is one of the nation's very best governors, this long wide-ranging interview discusses not just his education reform proposals but also his pension reform fight. Excerpt:
[B]efore we discuss any change, we have to understand that the status quo is not sustainable: $18.5 billion [Unfunded Accrued Liability]. We're spending already over $2 billion dollars a year [for retirement programs]. If we do nothing, the UAL will go up by $3 billion.
Let's look at the alternative. If we do nothing, there really are just three alternatives. One is that we break our promise to employees, which we're not willing to do. Second is that we devastate critical services like education and health care. We're not willing to do that. Third is that we simply raise taxes on our people. We're not willing to do that as well. Some would say, “Well, why tackle these hard reforms? Constitutionally, you don't have to pay off the UAL until 2029.” I think that's irresponsible.
When you look historically at the 1980s, taxpayers were paying for 60% of the retirement program's cost. Workers were paying 40%. That was considered a fair balance. Today taxpayers are paying 75% and the employees are only paying 25% of the retirement costs. Even with all the reforms that we've proposed, we're not going back to 60/40, even with the savings for taxpayers. You're still looking at a ... two-thirds, one-third split. So taxpayers are still paying for two-thirds of the retirement program. I think a better question, another way to ask that question, would be, “Why didn't you go back to 60/40, why not cut the taxpayers contributions to 60%?” ...
I think that if you go and ask the average taxpayer, “Hey, look, you guys used to pay 60% of the retirement cost; today you're paying 75%. Don't you think you should get a little bit more of your money back?” I think, absolutely. I think their money should go back to them. Whether it's in tax cuts, whether it's investments in education, whether it's investments in health care. Because what has happened over the last several years is, those investments have been crowded out as the [state retirement contribution] share has gone up. What has happened is, instead of being able to pay for classrooms and instead of being able to pay for health care, instead of being able to pay for tax cuts, taxpayers have been forced to pay for retirement costs.
Finally, in case you missed it, a Jindal tour de force on energy: