USA Today Attacks Governor Jindal For Cutting Taxes, But They Miss The Big Picture

USA Today published an editorial today attacking Governor Bobby Jindal, along with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, for signing big tax cuts into law. Both Kansas and Louisiana are facing massive budget deficits that USA Today blames on the tax cuts. Governor Jindal responded in an op-ed in USA Today that The Hayride has reprinted here.

Here’s how USA Today described Jindal’s tax cuts and the loss in state revenue:

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed a big tax cut through the legislature after he took office seven years ago. Since then, the state budget has gone from a nearly $1 billion budget surplus in 2007-08 to a projected $1.6 billion shortfall for the budget year that begins July 1. Jindal, who long ago took a pledge never to raise taxes, has cut higher education and resorted to unsustainable one-time remedies such as draining reserve funds and selling state assets.
Louisiana’s jobless rate has gone from much better than the national rate in 2008 to much worse. Jindal claims his state’s economic growth has beaten the nation’s, but he cherry-picks the years and doesn’t mention that since 2010, the state has lagged behind the national recovery.

The big tax cut USA Today is talking about is when Governor Jindal signed a repeal of the Stelly Tax increases. However, if USA Today had done its homework, they would’ve learned that Bobby Jindal had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support the repeal of Stelly. An ad was put together by a pro-Jindal group in 2008 that touted the repeal of Stelly by Jindal was refused by Moon Griffon because it was inaccurate.

Not only did USA Today believe Bobby Jindal’s own spin that he pushed for big tax cuts, but they completely miss the picture why state revenues are down from last year. The first reason is the price of oil plunged late last year. I’m not sure if USA Today knows that Louisiana is a major producer of the stuff. The second and biggest reason Louisiana is staring a $1.6 billion deficit is because we have a governor and legislature who refuse to cut spending and prioritize our state’s scarce resources.

One problem with the state budget is Louisiana has many dedicated funds that limits the options of the governor and legislature in what can be cut. The governor and the legislature has not had the courage to oppose further “earmarked funds” and has not attempted to repeal existing dedicated funds. Second, there is a lot of bloat in state government. For starters, as I pointed out last week, Louisiana has 15 public, 4-year universities. South Carolina, a slightly more populous state, only has 9. Louisiana needs to close or privatize a bunch of these universities.

The state also refuses to look at some innovative ideas. Professor Jeff Sadow had one today about imposing a family cap for welfare recipients. Treasurer John Kennedy has ideas on saving Medicaid money and eliminating the high number of consultants on the state payroll. The state also needs to do a better job prioritizing transportation projects and stop paying for the projects parish and local governments can fund themselves. Finally, it’s time to end the $200 million welfare payment that Big Solar gets to push their heavily subsidized, boutique form of energy.

While Governor Jindal’s budgets are horrible and should disqualify him from higher office, let’s put the blame where it belongs. It’s not because of tax cuts Jindal originally opposed, it’s because we have a governor and legislature that refuse to reform and cut state government.

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