Louisiana Budget Project Executive Director Jan Moller spoke to the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday about the looming fiscal cliff, the need for paid parental leave and other important issues facing the state. As the Baton Rouge Business Report’s Holly Duchmann explains, Louisiana faces serious fiscal headwinds in the years ahead. 

This year’s budget is not expected to be “severe,” Moller says, despite a $66 million shortfall expected by the Division of Administration. … Moller says that in the context of a $12 billion general fund, a $66 million shortfall is not terribly difficult to overcome. That shortfall will balloon, however, if the tax changes enacted in 2018 are not renewed and the state does not find an alternative way to boost revenues. Next year, the state is looking at a $559 million shortfall, which is expected to grow to $733 million by the 2027-2028 fiscal year. 

Gov. Jeff Landry’s administration is scheduled to present its 2024-25 budget recommendations to the Legislature on Thursday

LSU not fulfilling paid leave promise
Last November, LSU announced a program that mirrored efforts to provide six weeks of fully paid parental leave to all state employees: A new state Civil Service rule that covered rank-and-file classified employees, and an executive order issued by former Gov. John Bel Edwards that covered unclassified employees and appointees. But as the Louisiana Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson explains, LSU President William Tate hasn’t signed-off on the new policy and the university is only providing paid parental leave to classified employees: 

“The paid parental leave was approved for classified employees,” LSU’s Human Resource Management Office (HRM) wrote to one employee who tried to take leave. The partner of a denied employee provided the email to the Illuminator. Neither wanted to be identified. “LSU has not yet approved the paid parental leave for unclassified faculty and staff. Our office will announce any updates as they are made available.” 

LSU has refused to explain the situation, and declined comment to the Illuminator. Hutchinson writes that politics may be a factor: 

When LSU’s paid family leave policy was announced, it was touted as a major tool to keep and attract valued employees. … But questions arose in late 2023 as to whether the university would retain the policy if the next governor — Jeff Landry, a Republican — decided to undo his Democratic predecessor’s work. …  Landry has said he’s undecided on whether he will keep the policy, citing the need to understand its impact on the state budget.

Fox, meet the henhouse
Gov. Jeff Landry’s choice to oversee Louisiana’s troubled juvenile justice system is the founder and longtime director of a youth detention center in Coushatta that was the subject of a 2022 New York Times investigation that documented a horrific pattern of suicides, escapes and physical and sexual assaults against children. Kenneth “Kenny” Loftin, who will lead the state’s Office of Juvenile Justice, was not accused of abuse. But his appointment has raised alarm among juvenile justice advocates, as the Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Meghan Friedmann and James Finn report: 

“We are utterly disturbed and outraged by the appointment of the former director of Ware Youth Center when a New York Times investigative report offered a detailed account of the systemic abuse and enforced trauma occurring under his leadership,” Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children Director Gina Womack said in a statement. “We know that during Loftin’s tenure over many years, Ware was a cesspool of abuse and harm, including rampant sexual violence that went unaddressed.”

Why are teachers quitting?
A panel of Louisiana educators is questioning the accuracy of data from exit interviews by outgoing teachers. The suspicion arose during a meeting where the Louisiana Department of Education was presenting data from the 2022-2023 school year and asking for feedback. While teacher exit surveys are required by state law, districts control what questions can be included. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Allison Allsop reports

There are 12 tracked reasons for why teachers leave. They include resigning for personal reasons, retirement, termination, accepting a school leadership role or another teaching position within Louisiana, and dissatisfaction with school or district policies. These options were created by a working group after the initial legislation establishing these surveys was passed. Members of the council wondered if the state education department or an outside party would administer the surveys to avoid the concerns of honesty and transparency. Such a change would require legislative action to amend current law.

Number of the Day
$3 million – Potential cost to the state to send Louisiana National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border. Gov. Jeff Landry recently announced that he wants to send Louisiana soldiers to help guard the Southern border. (Source: Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate)