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Story Archives: Leadership when it counts
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|Leadership when it counts|
It wasn't too long ago that news reports were running rampant about higher education officials complaining to high heaven that budget cuts Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed for the new fiscal year would inflict more pain and suffering than the state's colleges and universities could possibly absorb.
If you don't remember, let us reflect for a moment.
A few months ago Jindal unveiled a proposed budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which called for the higher education community in Louisiana to trim its budget by some $219 million. The projected cuts for higher education were part of a course of action to trim more than $1 billion from the state budget for 2009-2010 fiscal year, which began this week (July 1). The revenue shortfall occurred in light of a downturn in severance taxes generated by a rather lackluster oil and gas industry. Sales tax revenues over the past year as well as corporate tax collections decreased, too.
Though state lawmakers signed off generous increases in funding for higher education in the past few years, the higher ed community didn't cotton to Jindal's proposal to force colleges and universities to make do with less. However, instead of hashing out their differences with Jindal in private, higher ed officials went public with their beef with the governor.
In a big way.
First we were enlightened with economic impact studies (paid for by the higher education community), which told us how much money the state's colleges and universities generated for the communities in which they're located. One university president suggested the proposed budget cuts for his institution would be the equivalent of a major employer vacating his community. Laughable to say the least.
Not long thereafter higher ed officials staged news conferences, joined by leaders in their communities, informing us that if Jindal's proposed cuts for higher ed were embraced by the Legislature the state would erase the progress it made in the past decade or so.
Along the way, higher ed officials reached out to members of the Legislature, who seized on higher ed's plight to advocate for a roll back in tax cuts state lawmakers approved last year. Sen. Lydia Jackson's unconstitutional legislation to implement a more than $100 million income tax hike comes to mind.
Finally, let's not overlook the media, which, save for a couple of opinion writers, has never cared for Jindal because he openly speaks about his faith in Jesus Christ.
Obviously ignorant of that basic principle that government should never raise taxes in the midst of a recession, the media criticized Jindal for refusing to embrace a tax hike to generate revenues for higher education and health care, which faced big budget cuts at onset of the 2009 regular session, too. Eventually, a number of editorials published by Louisiana newspapers accused Jindal of failing to lead. They said he should support an increase in taxes in lieu of budget cuts.
Through it all, though, Jindal held firm.
There would be no tax increases, Jindal said.
Yet, a funny thing occurred as the regular session moved toward final adjournment last week. Utilizing some tricky accounting, the Legislature "found" enough money so that higher ed would only encounter a roughly $100 million budget cut in the new fiscal year.
Yet, the chain of the events that led to enough money surfacing to offset some of the proposed budget cuts for higher ed was not quite as funny as the prepared statements offered by higher ed officials following the close of the regular session. The statements went to great length to praise Jindal for his leadership in restoring some of the cuts that were first proposed for higher ed just a few months ago.
Funny indeed but probably not quite as humorous as what higher ed officials were told behind closed doors by Jindal and/or a member of his administration once the governor heard enough bellyaching about his so-called failure to lead. Being taken to the "wood shed" comes to mind. That's a polite way of putting it.
The reality of it is Jindal refused to go along with tax increases during the 2009 regular legislative session and he forced state government and the people who make a living at the expense of state government, or the taxpayers, to make do with less in the coming year.
That's leadership, my friends, in every sense of the word.