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Students, faculty weigh-in on Louisiana's last place ranking

LA Last place

Louisiana came in last place on US News’s “Best States Rankings” list for the third year in a row.

Louisiana placed 45th in health care, 48th in education, 49th in economy, 48th in infrastructure, 50th in opportunity, 43rd in fiscal stability, 50th in crime and corrections and 50th in natural environment, thus placing Louisiana in last place overall. The groups were weighted, respectively. The weight of each of the categories was determined by how vital citizens felt each group was.

Associate professor in political science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Pearson Cross, Ph.D., said there were four main reasons why Louisiana was so far behind.

First, Louisiana has a long history of corruption.

“Ever since at least the civil war reform in Louisiana, history has always been about rewards for the group in power,” Cross said. “The idea of actually running the state government for the public interest has been, until fairly recently, a foreign proposition.”

He stated this practice still continues today, citing a bill proposed by Rep. Stuart Bishop that would allow oil companies to keep environmental violations secret. According to Idaho Statesman, the bill was only seven votes short of passing.

Second, Louisiana tends to be too reliant on the state government to fix local issues.

“Louisiana is peculiar when compared to other states in the extent that state government is the driver of many things on the local level, so the state government funds local level services and pays the lion’s share or determines how economic development works in localities,” he said. “That has created this culture which people look to Baton Rouge to solve their problems and also to pay for things.”

Third, Louisiana has become too reliant on oil and gas for income.

“We’ve fallen into some of the traps that states that are ‘blessed,’ and I put that in quotations, with natural resources fall into in other areas, and that is that they depend too much for their economic, cultural and social health on the health of a particular industry.”

Lastly, Louisiana has a history of deliberately holding a significant portion of its population back for racial reasons.

“Louisiana has a large African-American population at 32% of the total population, and our long history of racial subjugation and discriminatory measures against African-Americans has been a damper on state economic, social and cultural health,” he said.

While Cross said Louisiana is improving in many areas, it will be challenging to earn a higher ranking in the future as other states are also making efforts to improve.

“You have to remember that this is a sliding scale. As we, for example, provide better healthcare or better outcomes for school children, other states are doing what they can to make things better in their state as well. We started out in last place, or nearly there, so for us to get up in the low 40s would be an enormous achievement,” he said.

Holly Mayeux, a junior in biology and chemistry at UL Lafayette, said Louisiana voters need to make more informed decisions about who they vote for.

“Honestly, I think we need to put people in office who genuinely care about Louisiana’s infrastructure and economy and not just filling their pockets,” Mayeux said. “I think people just need to get more educated about who they’re voting for, because if you’re voting for someone who says they are going to do one thing and end up wrecking the economy as soon as they get in office, then, really, did you do the right thing?”

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