Louisiana's speaker of the House on Wednesday pledged a strong effort in the spring lawmaking session to change some of the state's most traditional programs, such as the government-employee retirement system and higher education's emphasis on four-year colleges.
Among the targeted programs, Tucker said the state employee retirement systems have accumulated an unfunded liability that will cost the state precious dollars and is crowding out investments in other areas.
He suggested that the state's current system, which pays certain levels of retirement checks in a defined benefits program, should be shifted into a defined contribution system, such as 401(k) programs typical in the private sector, or toward a system that changes the level of defined benefits.
He said Gov. Bobby Jindal and legislators are eager to take risks and make changes.
The biggest issue facing lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session is a $1 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Over the next two years, the state budget hole is expected to grow to more than $3 billion, largely because of problems with health-care funding.
Revenue cannot sustain expenditures, Tucker said.
He outlined other problems, including:
• Nearly $800 million in funds for roads, nursing homes and health care that the federal government wants the state to repay.
• An outdated public health-care system that cares for more than 25 percent of Louisiana’s residents.
• A bloated state workforce.
• The number of people who go to college and emerge with debt but not a degree.
• Declining state tax collections.
• A national health-care package that could increase the state’s Medicaid program costs.