In the late 1990s Governor Mike Foster’s administration came up with what was essentially a strategic plan for the state called Vision 2020. It focused on three areas: the economy, education, and quality of life, and it started, as you would expect from the name, with a vision for the state. With elections this year and 2020 upon us, perhaps it’s time to consider again the type of vision we want for Louisiana.
The “vision” of Vision 2020 was for Louisiana to have “a vibrant, balanced economy; a fully-engaged, well-educated workforce; and a quality of life that places it among the top ten states in which to live, work, visit, and do business.”
And out of that vision idea came some major policy landmarks that have served our state well:
- Establishment of our community and technical college system
- Expanded access to quality pre-k programs for four-year-olds
- School accountability, school choice, and the first real focus on improving student achievement
- A strong investment in higher education with an emphasis on research and technology
- And, tax reform to improve Louisiana’s financial stability and competitiveness
Just shy of 2020, one can’t say we achieved the vision, but for a time Vision 2020 served as a road map to the state’s future. It acknowledged where we were, but it also looked forward to where we wanted to go.
Perhaps in the spirit of Vision 2020, this election year is a good time to ask the people who want to be our leaders – the candidates for governor and the Legislature – what’s their vision for Louisiana? What do they see Louisiana looking like in 10 or 20 years and what’s their road map for getting us there?
The questions are particularly relevant because for most of the last decade the state’s biggest focus has been on the budget and piecing together enough revenues to keep the state from going underwater. It was a years-long distraction that took our eyes off of some of the most important issues we face like getting our state off the bottom of so many bad lists.
Now, with some degree of fiscal stability and elections upon us, it’s time to re-focus. This year, CABL is joining in a collaborative initiative with the Public Affairs Research Council and the Committee of 100 for Economic Development to help do that. We plan to develop and promote an election-year agenda focused on things our organizations believe will move Louisiana forward.
It won’t cover everything some might want to do, but it does target four areas that all of our groups recognize are critically important to a better future for Louisiana:
- State fiscal policy including our tax structure, budget, and retirement issues
- Strong education policies focusing on early education, K-12, postsecondary education, and workforce development
- Improving our infrastructure
- And, building on criminal justice and public safety reforms
It is our hope that this agenda will be a way to focus the attention of candidates on some of the state’s most pressing issues and a vehicle for asking them some critically important questions. What’s your vision for Louisiana and will you make it your mission? What will you support to help increase our education attainment, strengthen our fiscal posture, modernize our infrastructure, and make us more competitive for jobs?
We need to hear their answers. Because if they’re not talking about it, and we’re not asking them about it, then we know where we’re going to end up. And it’s probably not a place where we really aspire to be.