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

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Education reforms that include a 20-percent teacher pay raise over the next three years, coupled with the state's first-ever teacher evaluations.

Abolition of the previously sacrosanct governor's slush fund - a discretionary fund used by governors for pet projects or to woo crucial vote blocs - which under former Gov. Edwin Edwards had soared as high as $50 million.

``It's been tremendous,'' says Mark Drennan, president of the Public Affairs Research Council and an advocate for state fiscal reform. ``The list just goes on and on.''

Yet even with those impressive victories behind him, Roemer faces a more daunting task in October, when he will summon the Legislature into special session to consider a constitutional reform package to overhaul the state income tax system.

Roemer's goal is to make Louisiana, currently the only state with double-digit unemployment, more attractive to business expansion by shifting the tax burden from business to individuals.

``Once we get this taken care of,'' he says, Louisiana will go national and international with a new theme: ``Open for business under new management.''

Seated in his spacious office on the third floor of the Huey Long-era, 27-story state capitol, Roemer says he senses ``we still have good momentum with us.''

Judging by his legislative success so far, Roemer could be right. Many of the changes he'll seek - repeal or reduction of inventory and franchise taxes, for example - reflect a shift away from an era when Louisiana could heavily tax a lucrative oil and gas industry, while virtually eliminating taxes on individuals. Most legislators and much of the public seem to accept that changes are necessary.

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