If there’s a transitional locale along the political spectrum that’s nestled snuggly between unfulfilled promise and tangible greatness, a kind of professional purgatory, then that’s where you’ll find Gov. Bobby Jindal these days.
He still has two years of governing to go until his term as governor expires, and along the way he’ll face some extraordinary challenges. Most notably, Louisiana’s five-year budget outlook forecasts a $1 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2011, which begins next July, and a $2 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2012. While the sagging economy and other culprits share the blame, Jindal says the “most significant factor” is the cut in federal health care funding for those using Medicaid.
Joshua Stockley, former president of the Louisiana Political Science Association, says Jindal is wise in the ways of knowing what he faces. “There’s no doubt that this will be the real test for Gov. Jindal,” Stockley says. “Other state governments have already made drastic reductions, and the governor now has to guide his state through the same process.”
Nonetheless, two more hurricane seasons remain in Jindal’s term, and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s dealings with Katrina prove that Mother Nature can be as devastating to a political career as angry voters — and Jindal will have to face both seasons as he continues to oversee the state’s recovery from four hurricanes that made landfall in Louisiana in as many years.
It’s an altogether exciting and treacherous place for Jindal to be right now. On the issues of ethics reform, fiscal restraint and safeguarding local businesses, his administration has made some inroads, but they are also roads paved with broken promises.
For example, during one of the shrimp industry’s bleakest times last year, as dockside prices bottomed out, Jindal made a well-publicized vow to lean on state agencies to buy more shrimp from Louisiana fishermen and processors. That effort has been a wash. “It’s safe to say it’s on hold right now,” says Martin Bourgeois, a state marine fisheries biologist who oversees the Shrimp Task Force Jindal created to address the overall industry crisis.
Based on correspondence obtained from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, most of the agencies that do purchase seafood are already maxed out. Even the Department of Public Safety and Corrections — a whale of a client that already buys 600 pounds of shrimp each month — doesn’t have enough freezer capacity to take on more product, says Lt. Col. Genny L. May, deputy superintendent of the Louisiana State Police.
Then there’s the issue of state contracts. Recently, the Commission on Streamlining Government, another Jindal task force set up to cut the budget, took the Division of Administration to task on having more public oversight of the state’s numerous contracts. On his own during the last two years of regular sessions, Jindal has done that by vetoing budget line items for nonprofits and other groups that don’t fit into his administration’s guidelines for non-governmental programs and organizations.
But that doesn’t mean some of those organizations aren’t getting state money. According to a search of state contracts, there are 31 agencies and nonprofits that either subsequently received a state contract or were already under contract with the state at the time of Jindal’s cut to their funding lines after the 2008 and 2009 sessions.
This past summer, Jindal vetoed $25,000 meant for the Joy Corporation (it provides training, education and rehabilitation “to meet the holistic needs of the local community”), even though the nonprofit secured a $30,000 contract on its own just months later with the Department of Health and Hospitals. In 2008, he vetoed $25,000 intended for Doorway to Louisiana and the same amount meant for Louisiana Ballooning. Again, the two groups turned around and were able to secure contracts worth $13,718 and $15,000, respectively, from the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. These are just a few examples.
Going further back, Jindal is still dealing with the glitches that resulted from his landmark ethics reform session of 2008. In the end, this could require the administration to swallow its pride and possibly backtrack on certain initiatives it once heralded. In fact, Public Affairs Research Council President Jim Brandt says a study group should have already been formed and finished with its findings. “The process of deciding the guilt or innocence of those accused of ethics violations is too important to be altered without thorough legal study and thoughtful consideration,” Brandt says.
In a prepared statement last fall, Kyle Plotkin, Jindal’s spokesman, said the governor would remain committed to his promise of a “Gold Standard” for ethics in Louisiana, and that includes taking action in future legislative sessions. “We’ve made incredible progress through the comprehensive and aggressive ethics reforms put into law last year,” Plotkin said at the time. “Ethics will absolutely remain a cornerstone issue of our administration as it’s indelibly linked with our economic development priorities.”
When it comes to business, Jindal came out swinging in 2008 by accelerating the elimination of the tax on business investment (Louisiana was one of only three states in the country taxing manufacturing machinery and equipment); speeding up the removal of the tax on capital investment (this kind of taxable debt will be completely cut by July); and stripping business utility taxes. Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, says there’s still more work to be done. “Louisiana ranks 15th in the category of the total amount of state and local business taxes paid,” Juneau says. “That isn’t good, but it gets worse. When the amount of state and local business taxes as a percentage of all taxes collected is measured, Louisiana comes out fifth highest in the nation.”
Meanwhile, Jindal’s education and health care proposals have stirred up controversy and jarred old-line thinkers, but his policy teams have yet to make substantial gains. Politically, his endorsements of other candidates don’t always play out like he wants (actually, most lose), he’s raised more money than any governor before him (about $3.5 million at last count, but surely larger by now) and has already survived legislative rows (like supporting then opposing a pay hike for lawmakers) that would have sunk weaker chief executives.
At the same time, his national aspirations continue to be a player, and the governor is being included in national polls on the 2012 presidential race. Moreover, to date, Jindal has traveled outside of the state some 40 times to raise money for his 2011 re-election campaign. Louisiana’s populace should expect more of the same during the coming two years, at least on the political front. As far as ethics reform, education, economic development and all the other stuff that matters, there’s only one man who can decide that — and he’s in professional purgatory at the moment.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 16, 2014:
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
Chris Williams knows how to pilfer from the public coffers, this time with a back-pay lawsuit filed three years ago against the Lafayette Housing Authority, which netted the former city-parish councilman a cool five figures.
McAllister's office vowed that he intended to stay in office — for now. As for questions about whether he would stand for re-election in November, those were dodged.
The Green Army's Lafayette brigade has announced it will pay a visit Friday morning to Sen. Page Cortez to urge him to vote against Sen. Robert Adley's SB 553, which the group is calling the "Big Oil Bailout Bill of 2014."
For the sixth consecutive year, Andy Nyman, LSU associate professor of wetland wildlife management, and his service-learning students plan to spend spring break differently from those students flooding the beaches of Florida.
When a BP oil well began gushing crude into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, fisherman George Barisich used his boat to help clean up the millions of gallons that spewed in what would become the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.
The legislation — House Bill 503 by state Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport — passed by an 8-5 vote and advances next to the full House.
The Republican Party of Louisiana has had enough with the philandering hypocrite Vance McAllister. David Vitter? Eh...
A top aide to a Louisiana congressman videotaped kissing a married woman who is not his wife was one of the few people with access to the leaked security footage that exposed the dalliance.
Louisiana would repeal an unconstitutional state law prohibiting intercourse between two people of the same sex, if lawmakers agree to a bill that narrowly received the backing of a House committee Wednesday.