Sunday, January 3, 2016

Louisiana- plenty of money for UW football coaches, broke everywhere else

After the positive note the Badger football team ended the season on this Wednesday, it was a bit unnerving to see the Badgers' great defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda, leave Madison to take the same position at Louisiana State for $1.3 million a year.

I can't help but shake my head at the amount of money being given by LSU to Coach Aranda, and not just because it's more than 2 1/2 times Aranda's reported $520,000 salary at UW. But also because Aranda's major pay day came in the same week that it was revealed that the state of Louisiana is dead broke, as illustrated in this article by the Louisiana-based and writer Mark Ballard.

Ballard's article quotes incoming Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne as saying outgoing Governor Bobby Jindal has left a budget deficit of $1.9 billion over the next 18 months. Years of reckless "tax cut, borrow and spend" policies of the Jindal Administration resulted in structural deficits and revenue shortfalls (sound familiar, Wisconsin?), and then 2015's drop in oil prices led to fewer royalties for Louisiana. Combine that with lower-than-expected sales and corporate taxes for this year's budget, to the tune of $400-$450 million for this current fiscal year, and you see where you have a massive problem. Ballard's article notes that the Louisiana budget issues aren't just contained to the revenue side, as they have spending requirements that must be made.
In addition to being short on revenue, the state also needs about $300 million to make payments it doesn’t have.

“The economists tell us our budget is set up to spend money we won’t have,” Dardenne said.

About $190 million of that amount comes from the Jindal administration underestimating how people would use Medicaid, he said [and because Jindal was more concerned with his joke of a run for the presidency instead of being governor of the people who elected him, Louisiana didn't take the fully-funded Medicaid expansion in Obamacare. Sound familiar, Wisconsin?] .

The state is scheduled to pay public schools $20 million and $20 million for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, the popular program that pays college tuition and is called TOPS.

For the next fiscal year, the state is about $1.3 billion short of the money necessary to cover the existing state services with inflation, Dardenne said. That amounts to about 15 percent of the state general fund available to spend.
That's the situation after the mess of Jindal's prior budgets, which have been so bad that LSU had to draft an insolvency plan this April due to defunding, and Jindal's original budget set up a situation for that terrified the state's institutions of higher education.
Louisiana’s general fund contribution to higher education this year will be $924 million. But unless the legislature takes action within the next 45 days, that number plummets to $391 million for the next fiscal year, which starts in July.

Leaders of the state’s four college and university systems have faced a balancing act over the past few weeks. On one hand, they’ve focused on stressing the vital role higher education plays in the state and the damage the cuts would bring. But they also say they’ve only spent a small amount of time planning for them, because the cuts would be so deep and destructive that the administrators say they have to believe a solution will be found by the end of the Legislative session in June.

“We’re having to gamble on a whole lot of things -- hires, course offerings, whether to keep programs,” said F. King Alexander, president of the Louisiana State University System. “All of that’s a gamble because we probably won’t know what will happen until that last week of the session.”
Eventually, the State Legislature went along with Jindal's plans for minor tax increases and expense shuffling to avoid most of the projected cuts. But with a $1.9 billion in-year state budget deficit, it's hard to believe that LSU and other Louisiana colleges are going to be spared from more damaging budget actions.

Look, I understand that big-time universities have their athletic department budgets be mostly segregated from the regular, tax-suported university funds (and it's that way in Madison). But hey, those LSU boosters seem to have plenty of cash available. They just threw $1.3 million a year to an assistant football coach, and were apparently willing to shell out $11 to $15 million to fire head coach Les Miles (LSU Administration backed off and Miles will be back for the 2016 season). Maybe, just maybe, those goofballs should care a bit about the school and state that make LSU football a reality. I know that sounds weird in SEC-land, that EJUKAYTION be a focus of the university, but maybe LSU should consider it- or have the NCAA admit that SEC football has nothing to do with education or the university in any way, and spin it off into a semi-pro land separate from football that's played at places where the school part of universities comes first.

However, let's not laugh too much at Louisiana's absurd priorities and budget crisis. They're a nice preview of what we will see in the next few years in Wisconsin, including the "kick the can down the road" method of budgeting, and the plans to dump the mess onto the desk of the next (likely Democratic) governor. This includes $250 million in UW budget cuts from our own anti-education governor- who also seems to be a fan of the SEC type of thinking where athletics is entirely separate from the university that allows the Badgers to happen.

As you'd imagine, most responses to that Tweet are along the lines of "FUCK YOU!" with a lot of references to Walker's defunding of the UW, which led UW-Madison to take $7 million from the UW Athletic Department over the next two years to fill in some of those holes. That transfer of funds made it less likely for the Athletics Department to be able to pay top dollar to coaches like Dave Aranda, who left for LSU within 3 days of the bowl game that Walker references.

So when LSU's fans invade Lambeau Field next Labor Day Weekend for Dave Aranda's first game against his former employer, you might want to talk to those fans about how things are going down there by the Bayou. It's likely we'll find out that we really don't want to be like them- not in their screwed-up priorities and paying absurd salaries for athletics coaching and staff, and not in their screwed-up TeaBagger budgets.

1 comment:

  1. Jindal, like Walker is following the oligarch plan. Cut,cut,cut and give away the bank, life will become so horrible there's no way a republican would be elected to govern the state. The winner, most likely a Dem, in our failed two party system will have no choice but to raise taxes to make up for the fiscal irresponsible policies of a republican administration. Then the repubs can run against the tax raising dems.