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Story Archives: A campaign issue for Jindal's re-elect
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|A campaign issue for Jindal's re-elect|
Special interest groups in Louisiana probably do not realize it, but they laid the groundwork to some degree for Gov. Bobby Jindal's 2011 re-election campaign, assuming the governor will seek a second term in office.
That's blatantly clear gauging from Jindal's response to the de facto public relations campaign some higher education officials undertook in recent weeks. They went on the offensive in the court of public opinion by informing us of what to expect on the campuses of the state's colleges and universities if the higher education community is forced to absorb a 35-percent cut in state funding in 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Acting on instructions from the Jindal administration, the state's colleges and universities set out weeks ago to prepare budgets for the 2011-2012 fiscal year that called for a 35-percent reduction in state appropriations. According to the administration, the prep work was necessary because the state expects to have $1.6 billion less on hand to spend in the 2011-2012 fiscal year compared to the current fiscal year. The drop-off in state revenues, according to the administration, can be attributed to a decline in sales and corporate tax collections courtesy of a lackluster economy. Also, the state won't have some $300 million in federal stimulus funds to spend in the coming fiscal year while Medicaid spending, or expenditures for health care for the poor, is on the rise.
Add it all up, and we're staring at a $1.6 billion hickie. Since roughly two-thirds of the state budget is statutorily and constitutionally protected, health care and higher education bear the brunt of budget cuts in times of tight money. For the record, health care and higher education in Louisiana are not protected statutorily or constitutionally from the budget-cutting knife.
If there is such a thing as a special interest group in Louisiana it is the higher education community. Think about it. Few Louisianians—relatively speaking—attend and graduate from one of Louisiana's colleges or universities. Those institutions literally live and die thanks to the generosity of the Legislature, which never deviates too far from a spending plan (budget) the governor crafts for state government to follow in any fiscal year.
In speaking engagements around the state over the past few months, Jindal has been adamant that his administration will not embrace efforts to raise taxes to prop up the state budget in the coming year, a move that was expected among those who know that Jindal's path to power on the national stage rides on whether he can solidify his conservative bona fides in Louisiana. That means when the time comes for Jindal to ascend to the upper echelon of Republican Party politics, he must be in a position to point to an anti-tax, smaller government track record on the home front.
Remember, Jindal is a rising star in the GOP. Nationally, that is.
Jindal's detractors say the governor has done little to control state spending. They point to the Legislature lifting the state spending cap during Jindal's first year in office for lawmakers to spread the wealth, so to speak. Jindal went along with it.
That was then. Money was plentiful two years ago, and when money is plentiful it's a natural tendency to spend it to make up for all of those years when state government's hands were tied because there wasn't enough money to go around to make everyone happy.
Times have changed. The economy is performing fairly poorly. Money is tight—in government and in the private sector.
That means now is not the time to raise taxes to a pacify a special interest group. Not even the higher education community, which, though it won't admit it, would like to see the Legislature raise taxes so higher education won't have to dig deep to make ends meet in the coming year.
Jindal knows well that the worst thing government could possibly do in the midst of a recession is raise taxes. You can wage good money that he'll repeat that line over and over on the campaign trail this time next year.
Assuming Jindal's running for re-election.