To all of the Republican activists, elected officials, would-be candidates and pundits who are descending on New Orleans for the Republican Leadership Conference, I welcome you and hope you are able to spend some time enjoying all that our city has to offer.
Last night, Gov. Bobby Jindal was scheduled to speak at your conference, but I’m guessing he left out a few details. Let me clue you in on the real state of Louisiana under Gov. Jindal.
Right now, Louisiana is facing an unprecedented budget crisis, the likes of which I have never seen in 15 years as a state legislator. When Jindal took over in 2008, Gov. Kathleen Blanco had amassed an $866 million budget surplus.
Since that time, Jindal has delivered one fiscally irresponsible budget after another, prompting devastating midyear budget cuts to our health care system and higher education. Despite pledges to the contrary, he has raided dedicated funding streams to backfill general budget shortfalls, pilfered hurricane recovery funds to pay for operating expenses, borrowed short-term loans from the treasury to allow our public universities to pay their day-to-day bills and generally robbed Peter to pay Paul in every way imaginable.
His budget shenanigans are so epic that this year’s budget will use nearly $1 billion in one-time funds to meet ongoing obligations. It’s nothing less than a ticking time bomb that is set to explode once he has decamped for elsewhere.
It’s not just the state budget that is an embarrassment. Under Jindal’s watch, Louisiana has the distinction of cutting higher education by more than any other state in the nation. From 2008 to 2014, Louisiana slashed per-pupil funding by more than $5,000. Those cuts have translated into higher tuition — or a student tax hike — for Louisiana families.
Jindal has failed at delivering a fiscally responsible budget and investing in a top-notch higher education system. In addition, he has failed to create an economy that works for all Louisianians.
Don’t get me wrong — Louisiana is growing. It’s just that we’re growing at a slower rate than the rest of the country. While Louisiana’s GDP increased by 1.5 percent in 2012, the nation’s GDP increased by 2.5 percent.
Another statistic that the governor does not mention is Louisiana’s ranking as worst in the nation for the percentage of our citizens living in poverty. About 21 percent of Louisianians live below the poverty line.
So to our Republican guests, I encourage you to look long and hard at Jindal’s record before you consider him for any kind of promotion. He certainly hasn’t earned one, at least if you ask the people of Louisiana.
Karen Carter Peterson
chairwoman, Louisiana Democratic Party