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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JUL 24 This post on the Red Stick Blog reveals nine facts about Mike the Tiger, the LSU mascot who turns nine this week. That's interesting and all, but the best part of the post is the video of Mike playing around with a visitor, just like any other kitty. A massive, deadly, 400-pound, roaring kitty.
JUL 24 DIG Baton Rouge tells us about a local chef who makes an appearance on one of the Food Network's inexplicably stupid competition shows, Cutthroat Kitchen. The chef, who also appeared on Master Chef, talks here about Cajun and Creole cuisine and its place in American food.
JUL 24 Political consultants who switched candidates in midstream to work with Jindal buddy Garret Graves on his Congressional campaign are being sued by their former employer, the Picayune tells us in this post. Among the allegations? The firm started working for Graves before they left his opponent's campaign.
JUL 24 The recent articles about a study that found America's happiest cities are here in Louisiana have produced some raised eyebrows among those who have actually been to Shreveport and Baton Rouge. But the Today show did some research, and produced this article which talks about stuff that doesn't really represent those two cities. Are we still going with the drunk, fat and stupid brand?
JUL 24 Here's a story on Huffington Post that explores the connection between Gov. Bobby Jindal and the charter school business that sued him Tuesday over Common Core. The head of that business is recalling all the good stuff Bobby had to say about the curriculum - you know, back when it was cool to like it.
JUL 24 Blogger CB Forgotston has found another problem with the 11th hour bill that tacked $30K onto State Police Commander Mike Edmonson's annual retirement check. The move was missing a financial assessment that's required by statute. This is a red flag that was missed, CB says. You think?
JUL 24 Blogger Mike Deshotels prints a statement from three BESE members who are supporting the legislators who are suing the governor over the Common Core mess. He adds his own personal comment, as well.
JUL 24 The Lens is hosting a panel discussion on the cost of coastal restoration, and who should pay for it, next month in NOLA. It is planned to be a discussion of the realities of the coastal restoration master plan and its current funding, as well as what the future holds.
JUL 23 Blogger Stephen Sabludowsky is attempting to clear away some of the smoke that Bobby Jindal's been blowing about our economy. The press releases and "presidential campaign claims" of Jindal notwithstanding, the outlook is not that rosy, Sabludowsky says. He's got some comment here from the head of GNO Inc. as well.
JUL 23 This post on Mashable says Louisiana is poised to be the next (and better) Hollywood. Sure, blogger Travis Andrews is talking Louisiana in general, but the focus really is on New Orleans. And that's fine, because if NOLA and Hollywood get into a ambiance/food/style/crazy contest, we like NOLA's chances.
JUL 23 Here's New York Magazine's profile of Edwin Edwards, a well-written, thoughtful (and still unvarnished) look at Louisiana's most famous felon. There's a lot of history, but author Mark Jacobson doesn't get bogged down in pedantic rehashes here. It's a really good read.
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