A persistent difficulty in managing fiscal matters threatens the rise of Louisiana’s new political star.
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And guess who gets to decide which projects get funding? None other than Gov. Jindal. He also has line-item veto power over the state budget and can penalize legislators who fail to toe the line.
With the kind of power Beam describes, Jindal has the stroke to force through the cuts to balance Louisiana’s budget if he chooses. But the governor has opted for the one-time money instead.
Why? Because to actually balance Louisiana’s budget requires choices that are nightmarishly difficult for a modern politician, even one who was recently re-elected with 66 percent of the vote. Jindal is hoping that a raft of pro-business policies he’s managed to have enacted will begin to create the economic growth needed for revenues to catch up to state spending. Louisiana’s rankings on business friendliness have skyrocketed under Jindal and that will inevitably bear fruit — though next-door Texas, without a state income tax — has served as a vacuum for economic growth at Louisiana’s expense for decades.
Which means to actually balance Louisiana’s budget for the foreseeable future requires not just cutting health care and higher education but downsizing their delivery systems.
For example, Louisiana’s public colleges graduate just 38 percent of their students in six years. Only three of those colleges — state flagship LSU, Louisiana Tech, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — graduate more than 40 percent. And of the 14 public four-year campuses, only LSU, UL-Lafayette, and Southeastern Louisiana University have enrollments above 10,000 students. Clearly, the state is overbuilt where higher education is concerned and even in good times it’s difficult to fund the panoply of public universities at levels they would require for high-quality operations. Merging or eliminating some of those schools is an obvious necessity, but Jindal doesn’t have a taste for it this year.
And Louisiana maintains a network of what it calls Charity Hospitals, which now involve nine facilities spread out across the state. Two of the “Charities” are teaching hospitals directly connected with medical schools that LSU operates in New Orleans and Shreveport; the rest maintain elements of a teaching function but generally serve as brick-and-mortar operations serving Medicaid, Medicare and indigent patients. Only about four percent of the patients served by the “Charities” have private insurance. And with health-care dollars generally following the patients in today’s environment, the entire business model of a network of state-run hospitals is a needless drag on the state budget to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. But the idea of selling off some of the “Charities” is one none of the state’s political class, Jindal included, will touch.
Decisions like the ones described above aren’t easy. But if Forgotston is correct and a budget deficit in excess of $500 million looms, with no more opportunities to raid the rainy day fund, they’re the kinds of decisions Jindal will have to make.
Or perhaps Jindal’s successor will have to make them. If he’s in Washington by the time the budget ax must finally fall, though, today’s political star won’t be remembered as well as he’d like to be.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?