Deja Vu: Budget Musical Chairs
When will Governor Jindal come clean about his core ideology? Politics is full of “strategic dishonesty”. That much we understand. Yet, Jindal’s use of this double-speak is only thinning the ice under his own feet.
Jindal has balanced the state budget with a combination of three main factors: federal funds (which he claims to despise), “one-time” non-reoccuring revenue (like using gambling winnings to pay your phone bill), and sunny revenue projections (or “wishing” for money).
It’s the magical Jindal budget dance. Here’s how you do it!
Guzzle Federal funds, raid dedicated cash caches, auction state property, and then wish the state would collect more tax revenue.
Mortgaging the future for the present works when you have a limited term and have aspirations for future office. By the time all the cuts, auctions, and gimmicks come home to roost, you’re out of there. At least that’s what Bobby hopes.
Higher-Ed has been absorbing tragic cuts since Jindal took office. Rhetoric claiming the future of Louisiana depends on an educated workforce and robust research and development necessarily ring hollow in the face of these cuts. This year, it’s even worse. Jindal’s budget hedges higher-ed cuts with projected tuition increases (just another shadow tax increase), asset sales (especially overvaluing those assets), and pillaging of other funds. Or in other words, in money that doesn’t yet exist in the budget:
Jindal’s budget drops $424 million in piecemeal financing into higher education, leaving colleges mired in the annual legislative debate over the appropriate ways to craft the state’s budget.
If the fiscal hawks are successful in stripping all or part of the patchwork money, higher education could be on the chopping block. Without those dollars, colleges would face a 19 percent hit to their funding, according to the governor’s Division of Administration.
Perhaps Jindal administration budget planners assumed that by plugging all that one-time money into higher education, college officials would help plead the administration’s case for using the financing.
Or maybe administration leaders think lawmakers would be less likely to strip dollars from colleges than from other areas of state government.
Some pots of money used in Jindal’s budget are subject to continuing disagreements with lawmakers and others, making them far from certain to pan out.
…For example, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and area lawmakers vow to fight plans that would take $100 million from the city convention center’s reserve fund and plug it into the state’s budget for higher education.
The Jindal administration pledges to backfill the money from the state’s construction budget, but the pool of money for construction work has its own shortages and uncertainties.
Louisiana believes. A budget on a wing and a prayer. When the music stops this year, will Higher Ed be the one without a seat?
Jindal’s strategy is systemic and corrosive. And the Governor is truely out on a limb in terms of his approach. Fellow statewide officials are backing away from his fiscal leadership. Treasurer Kennedy has been a long opponent of Jindal’s budgeting, but it looks as though he isn’t alone anymore. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne vocalizes similar problems for the State Parks:
“This is the dog chasing its tail,” Dardenne said.
For Louisiana and Jindal, this could be the year that the dog finally catches it.