By Robert Mann

After eight years of enabling then-Gov. Bobby Jindal as he mismanaged Louisiana’s budget process, isn’t it remarkable that some prominent Republicans in the Legislature have suddenly grown a backbone? Apparently, the gestation period for valor among certain Louisiana lawmakers is precisely eight years – and birth occurs only when a Democrat is governor.

To briefly recap, Jindal slashed taxes on upper-income taxpayers and gave away generous tax exemptions to various industries. He shifted the burden for much of that lost revenue onto college students by cutting their schools’ budgets and raising their tuition. Faced with enormous deficits, Jindal wouldn’t consider the slightest tax hike. Instead, he stuffed his budgets with embarrassing amounts of one-time money from every trust fund he could pilfer or every state asset he could peddle.

In 2008, Jindal inherited a budget surplus of almost a billion dollars. Eight years later, he left his successor, Democrat John Bel Edwards, a mid-year budget shortfall of about $750 million and a shortfall of almost $2 billion for the next fiscal year.

For much of Jindal’s two terms, GOP lawmakers rarely opposed Jindal – and when they did, their protests were often halfhearted and brief. Most legislators knew Jindal and his aides were selling them phony numbers, but they passed his budgets anyway. As he decimated funding for universities, they did little beyond approving tuition increases (by 66 percent since 2008).

Last year, Jindal’s budget mess threatened Louisiana higher education and public health care. So, legislators sensibly did what they could to raise revenue to keep Louisiana’s schools and hospitals open (for only half the fiscal year, it turns out).

Now, many of these lawmakers have not only found their voice and independent spirit; they have also been born again as unrelenting fiscal conservatives. Many of these intrepid souls insist the problem can be – must be – solved with budget cuts alone.

Although he offers no specifics about what should be should cut, Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, said recently that he would reject “a budget that raises taxes on Louisiana families or businesses. Despite what some in Baton Rouge may think, we cannot tax our way out of this hole.” Hollis arrived in the Legislature in 2012, so he may have missed the news that almost $1 billion in income tax cuts(bipartisan legislation that his party supported in 2007 and 2008) is partly, if not largely, responsible for Louisiana’s revenue shortfall.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, is even more pugnacious – and arrogant – in her determination to resist tax increases. “We don’t need concessions,” she told a gathering in Baton Rouge recently. “We won.”

Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, also opposes any tax increases. Unlike Hollis and Hodges, however, Henry has an idea about where lawmakers should cut – higher education. “Though higher ed general fund dollars have been cut a little bit,” Henry said recently, “they’ve matched those with self-generated tuition increases and some fees.”

Henry is badly misinformed. He and his colleagues cut higher education substantially. For example, in 2009, the total of direct state appropriations and tuition to LSU was $797 million. In 2016, it is $691 million. At LSU alone, 363 teaching jobs (almost 8 percent of the faculty) were eliminated; another 1,561 staff members were laid off or not replaced. But Henry thinks LSU and other universities need deeper cuts?

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.


3 thoughts on “Are Louisiana GOP lawmakers budget hawks or chicken hawks?

  1. You use the word “mismanaged” in the first paragraph. This has overtones of incompetence because of the negative result. I think Jindal did exactly what he said he would do and what he wanted to do: Implement standard Conservative policies of cutting and privatizing in the belief that successfully implementing conservative programs would help his Quixotic quest to be POTUS. ALEC created the model legislation and Jindal and his legislative puppets mostly got them passed through the legislature.

    The second point is that we should publicize that Jindal implemented Conservative policies and if you don’t like the result, you should reconsider your support of Conservative policies and politicians.

    But the effective Conservative Oligarch’s propaganda machine has convinced many people that the only truth comes from conservative sources. It has also convinced Conservative politicians that they should NEVER compromise their policies and that their resultant governmental inaction is part of shrinking government. These two factors means that there are actual truths and Conservative truths and that it is virtually impossible to negotiate and compromise.

    John Bel certainly is going to have a difficult time dealing with legislators who live in an alternate reality because they have been brain washed by the propaganda machine.


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