On Friday, I addressed the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and laid out my vision for the Louisiana Way Forward during our state's long-term budget and economic challenges. I discussed my budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which includes no cuts for higher education schools, or K-12 education, and protects critical health care services without raising taxes. However, during these tough economic times, we must tighten our belts and pursue reforms and efficiencies that will make government do more with less. As I wrote in the Monroe News-Star, we will not follow Washington's lead and spend money we don't have or borrow money we can't way back. In D.C. they believe we can tax and spend our way to prosperity. In Louisiana we know that's absurd.
In fact, last week I was in Washington and I met with President Barack Obama at the National Governor's Association winter meeting. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported, I told the President that what our country needs now is a laser-like focus on jobs. It's time for Washington to re-evaluate their priorities and focus on jobs, jobs, jobs, not spending, spending, spending.
I believe strongly that our higher education system plays a vital role in our state's current and future economic outlook and that's why we proposed no cuts to higher education campuses in next year's budget. However, the need to improve our state's colleges and universities is real and we need to ensure every Louisiana citizen can get a great education and pursue their dreams right here at home. We must no longer settle for having the second worst graduation rate in the South. We wouldn't accept that ranking on the football field and we shouldn't accept it for our students.
Last week, I joined higher education officials, business leaders, and legislatures to announce the LA GRAD Act that will allow for increased autonomy and flexibility in exchange for a commitment to improved performance and better graduation rates. The Thibodaux Daily Comet declared that our LA GRAD Act has "real promise" and is "a good step" towards a better college system and I encourage the legislature to support the proposal to improve performance at our higher education institutions and make more Louisiana students graduates of their programs.
I also recently announced a partnership agreement to begin work on the levee system in South Lafourche with $19.8 million in support from the state. The Houma Courier reported that our decision to aid this coastal community was a "valuable affirmation of the levee's value, and an encouraging commitment to continue the protection it has long provided." We simply cannot wait on bureaucrats in our nation's capital. We will continue our historic efforts to protect our coastal communities - throughout our entire coast - with or without the help of the federal government.
We also made important progress last week towards punishing those who repeatedly threaten public safety. On Monday the Times-Picayune reported that the Task Force on Driving While Intoxicated and Vehicular Homicide endorsed legislation to require a judge to impose tougher sentencing for repeated disregard of the law and the Alexandria Town Talk endorsed our efforts to crack down internet predators saying that it's the "right approach," and "deserves unanimous support from state lawmakers". On our roads and in the privacy of our homes, our citizens and especially our children should be assured of their safety and that remains one of our top priorities.
Governor Bobby Jindal