COLUMN: Real Jindal story is surfacing
“Do you think Gov. Bobby Jindal has a chance at being elected president?”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked that question over the last couple of years. Most of the experts say it’s not likely, but Jindal isn’t going to quit trying.
The governor has been almost everywhere except in Louisiana in his pursuit of the presidency. And conservatives are eating up his anti-tax stance and his insistence that life in his state has never been better. Many of his out-of-state listeners don’t have the slightest idea of what’s going on back home, and they simply don’t care. They are buying his magical elixir — lock, stock and barrel.
Meanwhile, the state he is supposed to be governing is reeling from unsound budget practices. Citizens got the latest disturbing news Friday when they were told how the governor is going to plug a $103 million midyear budget deficit, the second this year.
State employees are going to be laid off, drug abuse and law enforcement training will be downsized, people with developmental disabilities will wait longer for home-based care, historic sites will be closed and state library hours reduced — just to name a few vital state services going down the tubes.
As bad as all of that is, citizens in other states have to get that news elsewhere. Some of it is finally beginning to surface at the national level.
Politico magazine and The New York Times had stories Thursday and Friday giving their readers a close-up look at Jindal’s Louisiana.
The Politico article was written by veteran legislative reporter and political author Tyler Bridges. It is titled, “Bobby Jindal’s Troubles at Home: What He’s not Talking About on the Campaign Trail.”
Campbell Robertson wrote the Times story titled, “As Jindal Looks Ahead, Louisiana’s Budget Woes Multiply.”
Bridges said, “But here’s what Jindal doesn’t say: Louisiana’s budget is hemorrhaging red ink, and it’s getting worse. He inherited a $900 million surplus when he became governor seven years ago, and his administration’s own budget documents now show the state is facing deficits of more than $1 billion for as far as the eye can see. There are no easy solutions today because Jindal has increasingly balanced the budget by resorting to one-time fixes, depleting the state’s reserve funds and taking money meant for other purposes.”
Robertson said, “Louisiana’s higher education budget, one of the few discretionary targets, has been slashed by more than just about any other state since 2008; there are a thousand fewer full-time faculty members on the state payroll, and next year Louisiana State University, the state’s flagship institution, is facing a potential 40 percent cut in its operating budget…”
McNeese State University and other higher education institutions are facing the same devastating budget reductions.
Jindal was quick to try and discredit both news stories by saying they omitted key facts.
The governor and his spokesmen have always been good at skirting real issues by emphasizing positive news that doesn’t fully answer the critics. The facts the governor cites are upgrades in state credit ratings and Louisiana’s private sector economy being as strong as it’s ever been.
Those are pluses, but they don’t tell the detailed story about the price the state has paid to get to that point.
The governor blames a drop in oil prices for budget woes, when they are only a small part of the problem. It makes for a convenient escape from reality.
Bridges said the real culprit is the governor’s penchant for using onetime money to fashion his budgets. He uses revenues from property sales, legal settlements, a tax amnesty program and by raiding trust funds like the $800 million Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly and the $500 million surplus of the Office of Group benefits.
Jim Richardson, an LSU economist and member of the Revenue Estimating Conference, said, “Doing it for one year is bad policy. But doing it for four or five years is not sustainable.”
Jindal isn’t the only culprit here. The Louisiana Legislature has approved all of the gimmicks the governor has used to balance the state budget.
OK, let’s get back to our original question. What are Jindal’s presidential chances?
Larry J. Sabato, the respected founder and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, and two others have issued their “Crystal Ball rankings of the 2016 Republican presidential contenders.”
“The Frontrunners” are Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey are in the Second Tier called “The Credible Contenders.”
“The Outsiders” are U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson, neurosurgeon and activist, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Jindal is among “The Governor Alternatives” in the Fourth Tier. He joins Govs. John Kasich of Ohio, Mike Pence of Indiana and Rick Snyder of Michigan and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
The Crystal Ball story said Jindal and Perry “seem almost certain to run…”
“This is a group of candidates, that, individually or collectively, would need to take down Walker in order to have a chance at the nomination…,” the story said.
The 2016 campaign is still a long way down the road, and anything can happen. However, I am still looking for someone with political savvy to tell me Jindal has a real shot at the Republican nomination and winning the presidency.
JIM BEAM, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-515-8871 or [email protected]? .