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Louisiana's energetic reformer. Governor pushes economic agenda to get state on track

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The Roemer revolution is on track and rolling along. Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who took office in March promising reform for his high-spending but economically depressed state, has surprised friend and foe alike.

Governor Roemer likens his task to that of a corporate CEO - say, a Lee Iacocca taking the reins of a bankrupt Chrysler. It is as much through persuasive intellect and sheer determination as through traditional political savvy that Mr. Roemer is seeing his vision adopted, with few exceptions so far, piece by piece.

Placing himself among the new generation of governors who are ``younger, more aggressive, more competitive, more managerial,'' the man who left Congress to run this state brings his hands down to his desk and says, ``This is where the action is.''

Close associates say Roemer has an eye on the White House. First, however, he'll have to turn what some have referred to as a banana republic - a state rich in natural resources, but poor in self-direction and educated leaders - into an example for the rest of the country.

In his first legislative session, which ended last month, the diminutive but energetic Roemer wasted little time learning the ropes, pushing through an agenda that still has traditionally populist Louisiana wondering exactly what happened. Among the items passed:

A $7.5 billion budget, balanced for the first time since 1984, accomplished by $450 million in cuts and some temporary - and controversial - sales-tax increases.

A 10-year plan for paying off the state's $1 billion debt by dedicating a penny of the four-cent state sales tax to debt payment.

Repeal of the state's ``prevailing wage'' law requiring union-scale wages on state construction projects.

A 5-percent reduction in unemployment benefits and tightening of eligibility standards, bringing Louisiana into line with other Southern states.

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