The calamities of Katrina and Rita demanded action from the state, but officials are adding new layers of government at lightning speed during a time when resources are scarce. Lawmakers cut a whopping $630 million from the state budget last year, and it's nowhere near what's needed 'another 20 percent budget cut is predicted this spring.
The administration contends there is little reason for concern. Terry Ryder, executive counsel for Gov. Kathleen Blanco, argues that all levels of government are "just feeling their way around" and trying to balance finances as new services and programs are needed. It's an issue no one has ever dealt with before, he adds, and if there comes a time to hold back, it will happen.
"The governor will do whatever the governor needs to do to get through this," Ryder says.
Meanwhile, the governor's primary opposition ' the GOP ' believes the state could be overreaching and trying to do more with fewer resources. The end result of all these additions might be a state bogged down in a costly, bureaucraticÂ mess, says Rep. Jim Tucker, the Terrytown chairman of the Republican Delegation. "That's a real concern for me," he notes. "We don't have the latest budget figures yet to see if we're really spiraling out of control, but we could end up with a government that is not reflective of the money or resources we actually have."
Then there's the question of effectiveness ' or ineffectiveness, which could translate into wasted money or public outrage.
Creating new bureaucracies to give the appearance of addressing a problem is nothing new, says Dr. Kirby Goidel, director of the Public Policy Research Lab in Baton Rouge. But because such efforts generally address past mistakes, the new bureaucracy often proves ineffective in dealing with new crises ' on the federal level, think FEMA or the Department of Homeland Security.
"If the new bureaucracy doesn't replace an existing bureaucracy, however, or if it doesn't have a clear purpose and time frame to work in, it can add another unnecessary layer," Goidel says.
For instance, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which has 30 members on its board of directors, was created by the governor to deal with the large amounts of federal money pouring into the state. As an independent panel, in theory, it can assure fiscal accountability and avoid corruption. But no one knows how long the authority will be needed or what roles it will take on in coming months.
The entity is expected to be added into state law during the ongoing special session. That's a necessity because the authority will grow in size over time and will require additional funding and staff, says Jim Brandt, president of the Public Affairs Research Council, a nonprofit organization that monitors state government.
Brandt is dead on the money. Lawmakers predict the LRA will require 15 full-time employees with a budget of $122,000 from the state and $221,000 from the feds.
Yet Brandt is confident the expansion will be balanced against smart cuts. "While we always have to carefully watch to prevent the unnecessary growth of state and local governments, I don't think the actions proposed in this special session are a significant danger on that front," he says.
That's a forward-looking assessment open for debate.
"Whether these new bureaucracies can ultimately solve the problem they were created to address ' or whether they end up reflecting the same problems that affected the system before they were created ' is something only time will tell," Goidel says.
It's easy to argue that local governments will need to shrink and might even be forced to do so. The special session is expected to yield legislation that would consolidate local offices in New Orleans and merge levee boards in the region.
Arguments about growth on the state level can also be easily debunked. Money for new building inspectors, brought about by a statewide code approved in November, could be offset by license and permit fees. Additionally, it's doubtful a new undersecretary of transportation will be approved by the Legislature this year, as proposed by a group of lawmakers.
But there's much more on the horizon to consider.
Tax elections will be needed for all new levee boards. The governor wants the Office of Emergency Preparedness to be an official agency, and she's also pushing the creation of a Disaster Recovery Unit, which would have 27 new jobs at nationally competitive pay scales.
And most recently, state lawmakers discussed adding more structure to the 16-member Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which was created in November to serve as a hub for coastal restoration, hurricane protection and flood control.
All of this comes as the state is expecting a $786 million shortfall in its general fund for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Dr. Robert E. Hogan, associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University, said the state could possibly end up with more bureaucracy than ever before, as eliminating bureaucracy is more difficult than creating it. As for whether the state will be able to afford all the changes, Hogan offers a wry observation.
"I would say that I do not know if Louisiana has ever had a government that reflects the current state of the economy," he says.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 13, 2013:
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.