Regardless of whatever stats, rankings or carefully shaded reports the Jindal administration puts out regarding job creation or the state of the state’s economy, please know that, in truth, Louisiana is on a high-speed-rail collision course with global economic irrelevance.
Make no mistake, it’s fabulous that Louisiana, under Gov. Bobby Jindal, has spent hundreds of millions of economic development dollars to sustain chicken farmers, enable the manufacturing of high-end toilet paper, land international industrial companies, leverage cheap natural gas to attract manufacturing facilities and provide any incentive necessary to develop the movie and nascent digital media industries. Without question, each and every win by LED’s Stephen Moret has been great for this state.
It’s also wonderful that Louisiana, under Jindal, has moved hundreds of millions of dollars from the state treasury to personal bank accounts and corporate balance sheets thanks to an unprecedented level of tax cuts over the past five years. Even better for the average reader of this publication, nearly every one of these cuts has almost exclusively benefited the wealthiest of this state’s residents and business owners.
Economic development wins and massive tax cuts have buoyed the state economy during the national recession, made Louisiana appear more business- friendly and, without question, earned the ballyhoo of the suddenly authoritative Site Selection magazine.
Yet all of that good news is effectively eradicated by the financial carnage that’s taken place in higher education under Jindal’s watch. The past four years have seen Jindal and the Legislature slash $360 million in higher education funding, $92 million from LSU, the state’s supposed flagship institution.
The result of these nine budget cuts has been a brain drain of campus talent, the elimination or reduction of critical academic programs, and a general sense of despair on campuses from Ruston to Lafayette to Baton Rouge.
The governor’s supporters will tell you the cuts aren’t nearly as dramatic as those of us in the media and academia portray them. They say allowing universities to hike tuition and fees has offset many of the cuts. If the only measurement is dollars, then they have a point. Just as those who argue tuition at Louisiana universities has for decades been far too low are correct. Raising tuition is the right thing to do, but only when done in conjunction with proper funding from the state.
Simply transferring the financial responsibility from the state to the student creates a situation where the student is paying more for a degree that’s worth less. How is that right?
Consider that Louisiana pays more than $8,000 per student annually to educate a child at the K-12 level, but contributes less than $1,000 per student toward higher education.
Incredibly, the worst has yet to hit college campuses. What the governor and legislators are talking about now is a budget that will hack an additional $225 million from higher education, $43 million at LSU’s Baton Rouge campus. To be blunt, higher education and this state can’t survive with cuts that severe.
Blame what likely will be a death knell for higher education on fiscal hawks not wanting to use one-time dollars for recurring expenses in the state budget. Blame several universities teetering on the edge of bankruptcy on the impact of tax cuts this state really couldn’t afford to approve finally catching up to Jindal and legislators. Blame record levels of corporate welfare or blame the ending of federal money post-Katrina. Blame whatever one wants, but there’s no escaping that higher education is collapsing on Jindal’s watch.
How much longer will it be before many of the companies this state is paying so handsomely to locate here find it’s impossible to hire qualified workers? How much longer will we accept a state that ranks 46th in the nation for education attainment?
It’s clear our state leaders have no stomach for restructuring higher education, but do they also have to kill our economic future?
At a time where knowledge, research and creativity have never been more economically important, Jindal and the Legislature are systematically destroying the very institutions that give birth to knowledge, research and creativity.
So while tax breaks and corporate incentives are great, there’s no tax break or corporate incentive big enough to overcome stupid.
JR Ball is executive editor of Baton Rouge's Business Report, where this column first appeared. Email him at
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NOV 26 Zach Kopplin, who we came to know and love when he was a Louisiana high school student lobbying for the continued inclusion of science stuff in science class, pens this post in The Atlantic about a "textbook" available for social studies instruction in Texas that discusses how Moses contributed to the Constitution. (Oy! Texas rednecks love Jews. Who knew?)
NOV 26 Finally, mad people on the interwebz is a good thing! World wide webby outrage has caused the village of Moreauville to reverse its plan to confiscate pit bulls and Rottweillers and euthanize them simply because of their breed, WAFB reports here. The plan? They're going to enforce the leash law. Well, that would have been a good place to start.
NOV 26 Jim Brown, like many of us Louisiana voters, seems fed up with out of town know-it-alls trying to tell us what to do. Bill Cassidy can't make it through the day without flying someone in to "tell us political retards" how to vote, he says.
NOV 26 Blogger Tom Aswell is writing about the behavior of the two finalists in the 6th Congressional District race: Edwin Edwards and Garret Graves. Edwards has come out swinging, but Graves' campaign seems bent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Tom says.
NOV 26 Unless you're in Virigina, you shouldn't count on seeing our Governor on Election Day. Mark Ballard writes in the Advocate's political blog that Bobby will be appearing at a GOP love fest of some kind there, instead of spending the day here.
NOV 26 This post on The Lens takes a look at the ongoing dispute in New Orleans over the banners about the upcoming tax election for the school system. The banners are hanging on schools, and some feel they are promotional, which is not allowed, instead of educational - which is allowed.
NOV 26 Not all college students are focused on football games and parties at this time of year. This post on DIG Baton Rouge recounts an LSU student group that tries to make sure that those who are hungry and homeless are not forgotten by those of us who aren't.
NOV 25 Edwin Edwards took off the gloves on Monday, this post on WAFB tells us. At a Press Club appearance, he wondered how his 6th Congressional District opponent, Garret Graves, could be an expert in all the areas in which he claims to be - when he has no college degree in anything. (Five years - FIVE YEARS - in college, but no degree. Huh?)
NOV 25 Blogger Mike Deshotels offers this primer on predatory charter schools and how they operate, specifically in Louisiana. They're not just profiting from our tax dollars, they're using children and shortchanging them to do so, Deshotels says.
NOV 25 Here's a link to the petition that has been created to save Zeus, a family dog who is targeted for death by the learned fathers of the Avoyelles Parish village of Moreauville. They passed an ordinance based on nothing that outlaws pit bulls and Rotweillers. As of Tuesday morning, the petition had more than 230,000 signatures - a number that's a wee bit higher than the village population of 929.
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