By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — Erick Erickson has an op-ed in NOLA in which he says Governor Bobby Jindal “has been one of the most successful reform governors” in Louisiana’s history. I’m not sure those of us living in Louisiana are all singing Jindal’s praises. By my reluctance to sing Jindal’s high praises you might question my conservative credentials, but hang on a moment.
The results of Jindal’s reforms have been tremendously positive for Louisiana. The state has seen reinvestment in schools. The suburbs of Baton Rouge stretch south closer and closer to New Orleans. New business is coming in.
A state where once businesses avoided because they did not want to pay kickback money to local officials now sees national businesses beating a path to the bayous. But the old culture, the comfortable culture subsidized by the state, is fading. People are restless and resentful.
Jindal has been one of the most successful reform governors in Louisiana’s history. He downsized the state. He privatized state businesses. He created jobs and brought in major corporations.
But what about the huge budget shortfall we are facing? Jindal’s administration has juggled money from one fund to another and now are caught short handed by about $1.6 billion, a nasty problem Jindal has outsourced to Grover Norquist.
And how is it possible that even though Jindal moved the 2016 presidential primaries up by two weeks in order to attract more attention to Louisiana, he didn’t fund them in his budget:
But the money for those elections was nowhere to be found in the governor’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, as legislators discovered Wednesday.
“I have no funding for elections past the fall elections,” Secretary of State Tom Schedler said during a review of the governor’s budget before the state House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
When it comes time to slash programs to make up shortfalls, health care and higher education are invariably the first ones to get the ax.
Bob Mann, with whom I seldom agree, wrote a scathing column suggesting Jindal resign and just turn the last year of his term over to Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne:
These are dangerous times, and Louisiana needs a full-time governor completely focused on our challenges. It’s not only our budget crisis, but also other serious problems that still require an active governor’s attention in the final year of his term.
You’re rarely in Louisiana these days. When you are home, you’re more interested in writing op-eds for out-of-state newspapers.
Mann lists one grievance after another (but as a staffer for Gov. Kathleen Blanco, again, he and I seldom agree).
Mr. Erickson is correct in saying Jindal has brought jobs to Louisiana. Quinn Hillyer gets specific about that:
Much of this success comes from remarkable, ongoing and even accelerating private capital investment, more than $54 billion worth (including projects in development) since Jindal took office. CenturyLink is adding 1,100 new jobs in Monroe, IBM 800 jobs in Baton Rouge, and Sasol’s natural gas facility near Lake Charles is forecast to bring 7,000 new jobs (direct or indirect). In August, Business Facilities magazine rated Louisiana’s business climate the best in the whole nation; three other similar magazines rank Louisiana in the top 10 — as does national location-marketing firm DCI in a rating released Oct. 20, marking an improvement of 20 spots since 2011.
All of which, in total economic terms, has meant real Gross Domestic Product growth for Louisiana of $44.6 billion. Even after adjusting for inflation, that number is $17.98 billion, or 8.8 percent, which is an astonishing 86 percent faster than national real GDP growth since January 2008.
In addition, Louisiana has become Hollywood south. This list of films made here or in progress is lengthy.
So what’s the problem?
Jindal is not without chinks in his armor.
Some suggest his ethics reform has been a sham; from my own column in American Thinker in 2011:
The Public Affairs Research Council and the Citizens For a Better Louisiana, both non-partisan, find fault with Jindal’s failure to uphold a promise that would reduce the occurrence of nepotism and conflict of interest. In fact, Jindal has signed exceptions around the conflict of interest laws when it suits him.
Jindal promised to prohibit elected officials from lobbying, consulting, or representing clients before state agencies, but there are exceptions to that as well. There are also exceptions to the law that prohibits candidates from paying family members with campaign dollars. Jindal also promised to make all ethics filings available on the internet, but as of yet, this has not happened.
Jindal’s inconsistent stance on Common Core has left the state divided. He was all for it, now he’s at war with his own education superintendent over the issue and wants to pull out of Common Core. NOLA suggests this would be a misstep:
Not only does Gov. Jindal want to move backward, he signaled Wednesday that he wants to cut the House and Senate Education Committees out of the loop on his legislation.
Both education committees killed anti-Common Core legislation last year, so it is no wonder he wants to skip them. But, the thing is, these committees are where legislation dealing with education belongs.
Now, I’m not saying Jindal hasn’t done some good for the state. I’m not even anti-Jindal; I voted for him. I don’t wholly disagree with Mr. Erickson’s op-ed, but I do think Jindal has faults that many on the national stage choose to overlook.
In my last post on Jindal in this space, a commenter reassured me that Jindal is not even a frontrunner for 2016; true enough. But as we go forward, we need still need to keep all the facts in mind. I believe Jindal’s expertise is in health care reform and he will make an excellent cabinet member in that regard, but he should put his presidential aspirations aside and concentrate on the problems at home.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.