Louisiana editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Dec. 10

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., on new energy:

If there are great gaps in Louisiana’s transportation networks, the biggest is surely the Interstate 49 route through Lafayette and on through Acadiana into New Orleans. Now, planners are talking about ways to make the costs lower, and there is a new energy around finding the unquestionably large investments needed to make I-49 South work for the region and the state.

It’s time.

Why? In part, because the completion of TIMED projects — the set of highway four-lane projects that connected major parts of the state over the last generation — are near to completion.

It is more easily politically to extend the program and fund new projects.

A second program of major statewide projects can certainly find useful targets for the money, but in terms of a giant advance we see I-49 as a significant contributor to the economy, just as its northern route has been in north Louisiana.

When Acadiana leaders met in Lafayette recently, the state’s highway planners said some adjustment in the southern end of the I-49 route could drastically reduce the cost of that improvement, perhaps as much as $2 billion or so.

That would require approval of the federal government, but that is also something that an invigorated I-49 South Coalition can work on.

Still, even the Lafayette urban portion of the highway comes to $750 million and counting, requiring a source of funding. The total project is now at $5 billion, without the cost-saving changes proposed by the state Department of Transportation and Development.

That will require state funding, as there is no free lunch, although it is politically incorrect to say so. Even if DOTD can break this long project into several smaller pieces, thus facilitating funding out of existing revenues, that means a long, long wait for completion.

Acadiana, and Louisiana, have waited too long.

The signs say “Future I-49” along U.S. 90. The future can be now, if there is a will to get it done, fully done.




Dec. 8

The Times-Picayune, News Orleans, on Gov. Jindal being sensible taking the Medicaid money:

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to reject the expansion of Medicaid looks worse and worse. A new study by the Commonwealth Fund shows that Louisiana will lose out on $1.65 billion in federal dollars in 2022 alone. The federal government will be paying 90 percent of the cost of the Medicaid expansion that year. If the state agreed to the expansion, its share for the year would be $280 million.

The governor has said that Louisiana can’t afford even that much. But the co-pay for Medicaid is a small fraction of the $2.2 billion Louisiana is projected to spend on incentives to attract private business in 2022, according the study.

And the additional Medicaid money would dwarf the $902 million the state is projected to get in federal transportation funds that year.

“No state that declines to expand the program is going to be fiscally better off” because of that decision, said Sherry Glied, one of the authors of the report.

By every measure, Louisiana would be worse off.

Federal taxes paid by Louisianians will help pay for the expansion even though uninsured residents here won’t get to take advantage of the health coverage.

In addition, Louisiana — and its people — will lose out on growth in jobs in health care and other fields connected to the infusion of Medicaid money.

Overall, Louisiana would get almost $16 billion in new health care dollars under the expansion. The first three years, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost.

The most important reason to expand Medicaid, of course, is that it is the best way to provide health care coverage to poor Louisianians who are uninsured.

Without the expansion, 242,150 poor Louisiana residents won’t have access to the insurance offerings President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was designed to provide, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

They don’t qualify for Medicaid now because of the way the program was designed and funded. They don’t earn enough to be able to afford to buy insurance on the new health care exchanges and aren’t eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s insurance tax credits.

Gov. Jindal has been unmoved by those arguments. Perhaps he can be persuaded by the economic benefits.

There’s really no sensible reason to turn it all down, and Gov. Jindal ought to see that.




Dec. 10

American Press, Lake Charles, La., on awareness, action can go long ways to preventing suicides:

The statistic is jarring, troubling. Last year, Calcasieu Parish ranked fourth in the state of Louisiana in the number of suicides per 100,000.

That’s not a surprise to counselors like Katie Blum, who works with teens and families at the Family and Youth Counseling Agency.

The elderly have the highest rate of suicide, but suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15-24.

Blum says that although each individual is different, there are normally tell-tale signs that indicate a young person is contemplating suicide.

“Being depressed is not enough,” she said, “but when somebody is severely depressed, that’s normally the first warning sign to get them some help.”

For some teens, Blum said, suicide is less about death and more about shutting off their problems and not dealing with them.

That’s why parents, siblings and friends should take any talk of suicide seriously. Blum advises parents to validate their teens’ concerns and talk about how they feel.

“Don’t fight them on how they feel'” she said.

Discounting or brushing those feelings off can isolate a person even more, Blum said.

Blum said every case is different but it’s normally a combination of factors that lead young people to contemplate or commit suicide.

“Wanting to kill yourself is very complicated,” she said. “Something like bullying or an abusive parent or being isolated — those things alone or a combination — that definitely would put them on the road to wanting to kill themselves.”

Suicide, particularly for someone in the flower of life, has tragic consequences for the survivors as well as the deceased. Confronting it head on with awareness and action can go a long ways to preventing it.



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