Bobby Jindal’s Troubles at Home: What He’s Not Talking About On The Campaign Trail.By Tyler Bridges Politico (2/5/15)
ov. Bobby Jindal has a plan: Do for the country what he’s done for Louisiana. Cut taxes and cut the government workforce and the economy will bloom, he promises. It’s a message he’s peddling as he lays the groundwork for a presidential run. Indeed, as Jindal is quick to say, private-sector job growth and the economy in Louisiana have outpaced the national average during his tenure as governor. “I’m a fiscal conservative,” he told the influential Conservative Political Action Conference last year, in explaining these successes.
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.
“There are all kinds of tricks in the budget,” said Greg Albrecht, the state legislature’s chief economist, a nonpartisan position. Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate has risen from 3.8 percent when Jindal took office, a point below the national average then, to 6.7 percent today—nearly a full point higher than today’s national average. Jindal omits these inconvenient facts when he bashes President Barack Obama and Washington for “bankrupting” the federal government and mismanaging the national economy.
As the son of Indian immigrants who was a Rhodes scholar, Jindal, 43, has stood out as a national GOP star since his 2007 election as chief executive of Louisiana, with an image invariably described as wonky. In 2009, he was chosen to give the GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union address, but his unnatural singsong delivery was mocked. Since then, he’s back to fast talking and reeling off numbers while he courts Republicans outside of Louisiana. A year before the Iowa Republican primary, he has shifted his political emphasis by making an obvious pitch for religious conservatives, highlighting his faith and following up the recent attacks by Islamist extremists in Paris by denouncing supposed Muslim no-go zones in European cities. Some commentators ridiculed him, but Jindal won attention on Fox News and CNN as well as the approval of some conservative pundits.
Yet one topic thus far has garnered little national attention: His economic record in the Bayou State.
Democrats in the state are quick to point to the budget problems. But what’s striking are the harsh critiques from fellow Republicans, who say Jindal’s presidential ambitions and frequent campaign trips outside of Louisiana have taken precedence over managing his home state’s economic affairs. “I’m hoping he will multitask and spend some of his time with us,” said state Treasurer John Kennedy, a Republican. “I’m a numbers guy. We have serious, serious problems with our budget. For seven years, we have spent more than we’ve taken in.”
Republican state legislators are particularly scathing in saying Jindal no longer exercises leadership, but they don’t want to go on the record for fear of losing their choice committee assignments or having the governor kill their pet projects. (A governor in Louisiana has so much power that he appoints the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate, along with committee chairmen.) Jim Richardson, an economist at Louisiana State University who sits on a four-member board that determines the state’s available revenue, predicted that next year’s governor—regardless of party—will have to call a special session on the budget, as the first order of business, to clean up what Jindal has left behind.
The deficit for the upcoming year adds up to $1.6 billion, too big to close easily. Jindal will show his hand when he releases his plan for a balanced budget on February 27, amid heightened attention because of his obvious national ambitions.
In a telephone interview from Florida, where he was speaking to a conference of religious CEOs, Jindal blamed the state’s budget woes on factors beyond his control. “The oil price drop has been good for consumers, but it’s had a big impact on our revenue,” Jindal told me.
But that’s not how Republican elected officials and independent budget experts see it. They say that the plunge in oil prices and the subsequent loss of revenue for the state treasury has exacerbated—but did not create—the budget issues. The real cause, according to these sources: Jindal’s aversion to tackling politically tough issues and his tendency to resort to ploys to paper over the problems … Read the Rest
Kansas Gov. Brownback’s Budget Hits Cherished Highway SystemBy John Hanna The Huffington Post (2/7/15)
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas voters who re-elected a Republican governor known for aggressive tax cutting are learning that the state won’t solve its serious budget problems without putting a normally sacrosanct asset in the crosshairs — its state-of-the-art highway system.
Gov. Sam Brownback and the GOP-dominated Legislature this past week worked out plans for closing a $344 million deficit and allowing the state to pay its bills on time into the summer. The plans included cuts to predictable targets, such as education spending and public pension contributions, but also diverted money from highway projects, which are especially prized by the governor’s rural supporters.
The extent of the cutbacks brought home the impact of the income tax reductions that Brownback, an outspoken fiscal conservative, has pushed through since taking office in 2011.
Even a few of the Legislature’s most austerity minded members were taken aback by the blow to the highway program, which comes as other states are considering new ways of ramping up infrastructure investment — some by raising taxes.
“When I send out surveys and say, ‘What are the roles of government?’ — and this is not just my district — roads are generally at the top of the list,” said Sen. Forrest Knox, a southeast Kansas Republican who’s among the Legislature’s most conservative members.
Many of Brownback’s allies have supported the cuts he’s made to cover the revenue lost from his tax measures, which dropped the top rate for individuals by 29 percent and exempted 191,000 business owners altogether. Brownback has argued that lower taxes would attract more businesses to Kansas and benefit the economy.
But revenues have fallen short of expectations, and Kansas’ credit ratings were downgraded last year.
Brownback this week proposed cutting spending on public schools and state universities by $45 million, prompting education supporters to warn about potential hikes in tuition and losses in summer school programs and classes for at-risk students.
“It is time to quit living in fantasyland,” said state Rep. Don Hineman, a moderate Republican from a western Kansas county who said it’s time for the governor to admit his tax-cutting experiment hasn’t worked …
Republicans Will Have To Spin Struggling State Economies In 2016By Alexandra Jaffe CNN (1/13/15)
(CNN)Republicans who want to make a play for the White House by positioning theirs as the party that can govern, in contrast to hapless Democrats, could face a significant obstacle: their governors.
From New Jersey to Wisconsin to Louisiana, GOP governors with their eyes on the White House have presided over unbalanced budgets, unfunded pension liabilities, credit downgrades and sluggish job growth.
That comes in contrast to an increasingly rosy economic picture nationally, with a strong December jobs report that capped off the best year in terms of economic growth for the nation since 1999. Unemployment, at 5.8 percent, was below predictions, and job growth has continued for month after month.
Three of the most prominent potential 2016 contenders — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — could face the most scrutiny, and have the toughest time explaining, their economic records for 2016.
It’s a troubling prospect for the party as it prepares to offer Republicans as the “party of solutions” in contrast to the Democrats, which it says has offered ineffective policies that contributed to a slow recovery and increasing inequality in the nation.
Charlie Black, who chaired Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential run, said that “the biggest problem the Democrats will have in the next election is that the economy is bad.”
“It’s really lack of jobs and lack of economic progress that’s the biggest issue,” he said.
But reality of late hasn’t borne that argument out. And he admitted that some governors may have some explaining to do …