By Robert Mann
To hear Gov. Bobby Jindal tell it, Louisiana’s projected $1.6 billion shortfall is due almost entirely to falling oil prices. In other words, it’s not his fault. Louisiana’s looming fiscal disaster is out of his control.
From the New York Times in a story published Friday:
In a phone interview, Mr. Jindal defended his record, attributing “the vast majority” of the shortfall to the downturn in oil prices and insisting that a shrunken state government was the goal, not an unfortunate side effect.
“Vast majority”? That would mean that Jindal claims more than $800 million of the anticipated shortfall for the next fiscal year is because of falling oil prices.
There is only one problem with Jindal’s story. Back in August 2014, fiscal experts were already projecting a massive, $1.2 billion budget shortfall.
Here’s how the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported the news in a story on Aug. 14:
Louisiana state lawmakers got their first glimpse Thursday of next year’s budget gap that they’ll have to close, and it’s another hefty shortfall: $1.2 billion.
The grim news, delivered to the joint legislative budget committee, barely raised eyebrows at the committee hearing, after more than six years of such disappointing financial forecasts.
The shortfall is projected for the 2015-16 fiscal year that begins July 1. Gov. Bobby Jindal and lawmakers will decide in next year’s legislative session how to address the hole.
On Aug. 14, 2014, the price of a barrel of oil stood at $94.08. The projected Louisiana budget shortfall was $1.2 billion.
On Feb. 6, 2015, the price of oil is $51.59 per barrel, and the projected shortfall is $1.6 billion — a difference of $400 million.
I’m no math major, but I don’t see how the vast majority of Louisiana’s budget shortfall could be attributed to falling oil prices, when those oil prices didn’t start falling until October 2014. Even then, on Oct. 31, oil prices stood at $80.54.
Jindal will spin the myth that oil prices have devastated his budget, something that is completely out of his control. He will count on the local and national media to ignore the stubborn fact that when oil prices were close to $100 a barrel, he still faced a $1.2 billion shortfall.
Oil prices aren’t Jindal’s problem. It’s his own mismanagement and reckless tax and spending policies that have created Louisiana’s fiscal mess.