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|Is Jindal doing the cha-cha-cha?|
We can say one of two things about Gov. Bobby Jindal.
He would make one heck of a poker player or he'll say adios amigos in the not-too-distant future.
How else can one explain Jindal's decision to prolong for another year a call to arms for the Legislature to make significant cuts in state spending in light of declining revenues thanks to a lackluster economy? Anyone?
Late last week, Jindal unveiled his proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins July 1. It's a $24 billion proposition. It's about $5 billion less than the 2009-2010 fiscal year budget. It's less because less revenues are available for the state to spend. Pretty simple stuff, even for a career bureaucrat to understand.
Let us recall that we've been told for months the state faced a roughly $2 billion revenue shortfall versus existing expenditures over the next two years. A reasonable individual would assume the state would need to do one of two things to balance its budget over the next two years—cut expenditures or raise taxes to generate more money for that beast we call government.
Though mid-year budget cuts were implemented not too long ago to shore up deficit spending, Jindal's proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year would be balanced minus gut-wrenching cuts to state services and the like – though the state anticipates a stagnant revenue stream in the new fiscal year. Per Jindal's oft-stated comment that government must learn to operate with less, no tax increases were proposed by the governor either. Kudos for Jindal on the no new taxes point.
However, Jindal's spending plan for the new fiscal year would be balanced by a hodge-podge of maneuvers, the least of which would entail using one-time revenues, or non-recurring monies. In other words, some of the money Jindal wants to use to balance the new fiscal year budget most likely won't be available for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
That's what we could describe as kicking the proverbial can down the road a bit.
It's problematic, too. It's problematic unless Jindal has other plans in mind.
Allow me to explain.
By sparing the state, particularly the higher education and the health care communities, from the budget-cutting knife in the new fiscal year, Jindal is banking on one or two things occurring before the 2011-2012 fiscal year arrives. He's either hoping tax revenues improve at a remarkable clip or he's going to force the Legislature to cut expenditures or dare it to raise taxes in 2011, which happens to be an election year.
Or Jindal is out of here, meaning he's not going to run for re-election and could possibly resign from office before his term expires. The latter sounds completely moronic but Sarah Palin proved anything is possible, or plausible, in American politics today.
If Jindal is truly serious about running for president in 2012 or at some later date, he must leave office in Louisiana void of becoming embroiled in a political bloodbath. Slicing some $2 billion from the state budget certainly would create some ill feelings that a liberal national press corps would eat up and take great joy in reporting to the American people.
Raising taxes is out of the question for Jindal. If he even contemplated it for a mere moment, he could kiss his conservative Republican credentials goodbye quicker than you can say "Who Dat."
That leaves Jindal with some pretty simple options. He can play his hand with the Legislature or he can do the cha-cha-cha and hit the road.
After all, the 2012 presidential race got under way long ago.