EDITORIAL: Fiddling while state burns

The clock is winding down on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s term in office, although it’s been clear to most people that for the past year or so his focus has been elsewhere, as in positioning himself for a presidential run.

He’s constantly traveling, with stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, Washington and London.

His foolhardy stance of no new taxes on his watch may appeal to the GOP core, but with the collapse of oil prices, the bottom has fallen out of state revenue.

And that’s the only logical explanation, for instance, for his change of position on Common Core Standards. He supported the concept until it became clear that the conservative core of the Republican Party opposed it. What one day was good for the state of Louisiana, at least in Jindal’s view, is no good the next.

All around the governor the state is burning, and he keeps fiddling.

When Jindal first took office, there’s no question the state’s operations were bloated. The time had come for smaller government, leaner and more efficient. Jindal’s early efforts strengthened Louisiana. The state survived the Great Recession with less pain than the rest of the nation experienced.

But Jindal, in his effort to galvanize the national faithful by sticking true to his guns on taxes, has failed to adapt with changing conditions. Instead, he has depleted Louisiana. He has robbed designated funds of their intended purposes. He has cut higher education too much. Health care services struggle to take care of a population that, by all measures, has greater needs than almost anywhere in the country.

And if the governor had hopes that his approach would propel a presidential campaign, the joke might be on him, at the state’s expense.

Even the respected conservative, Rod Dreher, in The American Conservative, writes disparingingly about Jindal: “I keep telling my friends in the national media that if you think Bobby Jindal has a chance in hell of becoming president, send a reporter down to spend a few days in Louisiana, seeing what condition he’s leaving his state in.”

McKay Coppins, a senior political writer for BuzzFeed News, summed up Dreher’s piece on Twitter: “Bobby Jindal has been a disaster for Louisiana. We’re sicker, poorer, stupider.”

Ouch! And that’s from the corner one would expect to back Jindal.

Late last week, the bad news continued from Baton Rouge. Jindal proposed to close the more than $103 million midyear deficit by shrinking health care services, trimming transportation spending and closing three state historic sites while also adding more stopgap funds into the budget.

Meanwhile, LSU officials, in anticipation of deep budget cuts to higher education for the next fiscal year to close a $1.6 billion shortfall has drawn up a doomsday plan that includes widespread layoffs, hundreds of classes eliminated, academic programs jettisoned and a flagship university that can’t compete with its peers around the nation.

The state needs help, and Jindal shows no inclination to provide innovative thinking to do so. It’s time lawmakers view him as the lame duck governor he is and look for new leaders, some considering a run for governor, some from inside their ranks, to provide new direction to stop the spiral.

The editorials in this column represent the opinions of The News-Star’s editorial board, composed of General Manager and Executive Editor Kathy Spurlock, Business and Politics Reporter Greg Hilburn and Education Reporter Barbara Leader.