Lost amid the stories of the Louisiana Legislature's most recent set of follies is the damage being done to those odd corners where people actually try and develop a better future. We're not talking here about the gauzy langauge that always envelops grabbing the state's cash for perfectly standard special-interest projects like funding I-49 South or giving money to some California company to help them buy a chicken plucking plant. No, what's actually future-oriented is much more vulnerable almost by definition. The real deal has yet to develop it a "constituency" beyond a core of the most creative and imaginative. And those folks are not special in any sense that a state legislature can recognize.
This is all in reaction to a story in this week's Independent that surveys the probable cuts to some of Lafayette's technological jewels. Interestingly, they're all into digital media of one sort or another...the LITE Center, 3D Squared's game/education curricula, and the UL Cinematic Arts Workshop at UL. The cuts to those programs aren't the end of the story either: cuts to the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the Louisina Endowment for the Humanities indirectly cuts alternate funding to these efforts and to the rest of the digital arts band in Lafayette. Long-term infrastructure is losing its opportunity as well with Regent's declaration that no new degree programs can be launched this year putting the breaks on UL's proposed moving image arts degree.
The sad thing is that these programs are just the sort that plant the real seeds for the future; its a pity that our legislature doesn't see the long-term value for such in the future and have the courage to actually support what's right rather than what's expedient. It's short-sighted. But then short-sightedness is what got us into the state's current mess. The legistlature last year tossed decades of hard-won fiscal reform into the toilet when it repealed critical parts of the Stelly reform plan during a freak year when a massive influx of federal dollars due to hurricane recovery and a predictably temporary spike in the price of oil produced a large surplus. Rather than husband that windfall for the easily foreseeable rainy day they did the easy—and irresponsible—thing of giving the voters a tax break in perpetuity. Without that we'd have enough money to fund higher education....and maybe a few other things that would actually be the seeds of a better future.
Maybe next time.