Let’s demand truth about Louisiana’s budget for a change

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Former Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols

By Robert Mann

Clearing off my cluttered desk the other day, I came across an op-ed by Kristy Nichols, the financial con artist who was former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s commissioner of administration. Last April, as the Legislature debated revenue measures to prevent higher education’s collapse, Nichols wrote an opinion piece for NOLA.com that was breathtaking for its mendacity. Nine months later, I’m still gobsmacked by her ostensible estrangement from reality.

“Fearless. Brave. Determined,” Nichols wrote, quoting a Times-Picayune editorial that demanded the aforementioned characteristics from Jindal and lawmakers. “In fact,” Nichols wrote, “those qualities are on display every day as Louisiana’s leaders work to solve a shortfall created by declining oil prices and corporate welfare.”

Nichols’ op-ed overflowed with such claptrap. She claimed Jindal’s budget proposal “included more than $650 million in new revenue solutions that would fully protect college and university funding across the state.” Ignoring her boss’ eight years of reckless budgeting, Nichols wrote these words with no trace of irony: “[L]eadership requires the ability to see past the short-term and create sustainable solutions that make our state better.”

Nichols bragged that under Jindal, “we’ve seen unprecedented growth in our economy and today have more people working than ever before. Raising taxes is not the answer. Asking our citizens to subsidize business will not help our state.”

Nichols’ piece is worth re-reading if only to remind us that Jindal’s budgeting was so dishonest and irresponsible that his accounting practices should be made a crime, punishable by a few months in the slammer. Although she and Jindal claimed their budget would fund higher education and other important services until the fiscal year’s end (June 30), we now know their budget was an epic sham.

State government faces a mid-year budget shortfall of $750 million. Despite Jindal’s false assertion that the “new revenue” didn’t come from tax increases, almost everyone but the former governor’s family and staff acknowledged the truth. Lawmakers and the governor raised taxes – just not nearly enough to keep state government open through the fiscal year.

Nichols’ mendacious piece is more than just a maddening blast from the past. It’s a cautionary tale worth remembering as Gov. John Bel Edwards and his commissioner of administration, Jay Dardenne, deal with Jindal’s budget chaos.

The lesson? All of us – citizens, journalists and legislators – should view every statement from any governor and his or her Division of Administration with healthy skepticism.

Continue reading at this link.

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This entry was posted in Bobby Jindal, John Bel Edwards, Louisiana Politics, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Let’s demand truth about Louisiana’s budget for a change

  1. Stephen Winham says:

    Exactly right. We are done a great disservice when those in power lie and with impunity and the fourth estate quotes them without challenge.

    JBE, et al, are in a desperate situation and it is a shame they are resorting to the very tactics they said they would avoid to try to make it to the end of this fiscal year, but we are literally busted and I believe they are doing the best they can at the moment to manage the situation they inherited. Tactics like these were used liberally by Jindal, but Jindal “came lucky” and got away with most of them with the help of a complicit legislature.

    There will be absolutely no excuse for using any such tactics in the fiscal year 2016-2017 budget that begins July 1. JBE should have known full well what he was inheriting for that year and now he and the legislature have up to 5 months to come up with a solution. How many times in the past have we heard, “Oh, that’s not enough time to fix this monumental problem.” Balderdash.

    Unfortunately, the public has been lied to for so many years, they don’t believe what anybody says about the budget so any solution proposed is very hard for them to swallow – and they can hardly be blamed. Even today, they can turn on the television and hear directly contradictory things from our own state officials.

    The governor and legislature are accountable for solving this problem and it should be put off absolutely no longer than the end of this fiscal year. If we fool ourselves into adopting any more temporary bridges to the future, we will have proven we are incapable of learning anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fredster says:

      Stephen, when we have the likes of Alario in the Senate leadership, I don’t have high hopes of accomplishing much in the nature of true reform of the budget process or our revenue issues.

      Even today, they can turn on the television and hear directly contradictory things from our own state officials.

      I can’t imagine Kennedy who those state officials could be.

      Right now John Bel has a bully pulpit as the new governor and he should use it. Perhaps he needs to have a televised address to the citizens before the special session starts. He can lay out the financial condition of the state, his proposed solutions and let the citizens know he needs the help of their local legislators in trying to fix the problems.

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      • Stephen Winham says:

        Love that Kennedy strike-through, Fredster 🙂

        The press seems to largely just provide a soapbox for people, rather than asking questions. Mr. Kennedy and others who say we do not have a revenue problem should be asked to simply provide a list of the EXPLICIT cuts that can be made to fix the problem rather than talking in broad generalities, and require that the list total the gap in its entirety. I’m all about cutting waste so let’s just see a list of wasteful spending that can be cut and what the effects would be. That seems like a reasonable request to me.

        I think what you propose about the governor presenting the problem to the people is an excellent idea and it is something past governors should have done – at least those interested in coming clean with the public on where we stand (ummmm, Roemer? Treen?). If even half the people were willing to accept the truth of the situation, it would do a lot of good. I have seen presentations that explain the problem in such a way anybody should be able to understand.

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      • Fredster says:

        Stephen I was trying to think of how can I name the one I don’t want to name and then the solution came to mind.

        That particular person loves to harp on contracts, lots of contracts. Well then (as you said) Mr. Treasurer please provide a list of those contracts, the dollar amount of those contracts, what they provide, can state employees perform the duties, and when and how the contracts can be ended. If he can’t provide these particulars then he’s just talking to hear his own voice.

        I have seen presentations that explain the problem in such a way anybody should be able to understand.

        Graphics and pie charts can show a lot.

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  2. msternb says:

    Good piece…however, I just finished reading a blip in Poynter about the lack of journalism staff at serious media able and with the time to dig through the palaver that Nichols and Jindal fed us for so long.
    The fact that I never voted for the guy doesn’t do anything to help the mess they left us…

    Like

    • rtmannjr says:

      Thanks for the kind words. And “palaver” is a word I need to use more often. Certainly would have applied to most of what came out of Jindal’s mouth.

      Like

    • Fredster says:

      Seems like Lee Zurik of Fox8 in Nola has time to dig into legislators’ spending habits with campaign funds (and yes that’s needed) so I would think he could have handled digging through the Nichols/Jindal propaganda.

      Like

  3. Linda Phillips says:

    Thank you for letting everyone know what really happened! I knew it already, but many are still in denial.

    Like

  4. Irvin Peckham says:

    Great post, Bob. I doubt that I’m the only academic that when offered another position in a university with a positive and consistent budged left in part as a consequence of the annual drama of LSU’s budget. Jindal acted as if he had something against higher education–as if who people who had received too much education would be less receptive to deception. Much regret about leaving LSU–a wonderful university that is being undercut.

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