My parents came to Louisiana with nothing but a belief in the American dream and that it could be found here. They instilled in me a deep, sincere motivation to serve others and accomplish big things. It’s ultimately their story that drove me to accept nothing but the best for this great state when I was became governor in 2008. Louisiana faced widespread challenges and there was no question that we were in need of drastic change.
Back then, we had a segregated health care system. We had poor health outcomes. Too many of our kids were trapped in failing schools with very little opportunity. The high school dropout rate was increasing and the graduation rate was dropping.
Our state was known for corruption and sending politicians to jail. Our government was growing while our private sector economy was stagnant. And when it came time to try to attract new jobs, companies didn’t give us a second look because our ethics system, tax code, and workforce development system were deal-breakers. And worst of all, we were exporting our most valuable resource — our people — to other states because they couldn’t find work here.
I will admit that change is hard. It riles people up and makes them uncomfortable. But here’s the simple truth: If we didn’t make big decisions in Louisiana, we were headed the way of more government than we can afford, a shrinking pool of jobs, and a shrinking middle class.
That’s why, on Day One, we weren’t afraid to rock the boat and tackle these challenges head-on. We didn’t have time to simply tinker around the edges. We weren’t going to govern based on the shifting sands of public opinion. I was elected to make lasting change for the betterment of Louisiana and that’s what we sought to do.
Because of that drive, we strengthened our ethics laws, privatized our charity hospitals, and enacted statewide school choice and teacher tenure reform. We cut taxes and cut our state budget by 26 percent. We cut our government workforce by 30,000 jobs and allowed the private sector to thrive. Most politicians won’t do these things because they don’t want to risk being unpopular, but you cannot grow the government economy and the real economy at the same time. I chose the real economy.
Now, we have the highest population in our state’s history.
People aren’t leaving Louisiana to find jobs — they are coming to Louisiana to find jobs. Since 2008, we have been a top 10 state for private sector job growth. We’ve attracted more than $62 billion in new capital investment and more than 91,000 new jobs in the state. We have the highest per-capita income level of all time. We are the fourth-most tax friendly state in the country. The number of failing schools has been slashed and we have the highest high school graduation rate of all time.
These reforms have truly put Louisiana on a path to prosperity. Our reforms are what Louisiana needed and I am absolutely convinced in the good we have done. We were at a crossroads when we came into office, and I believe we chose the right path — the path to prosperity.
As we finish up our work in the Governor’s Office, I would personally like to thank the remarkable people of Louisiana. Over the years, Supriya and I have had the incredible opportunity to travel across the state to meet some of Louisiana’s most compassionate, spirited and hard-working people. You have made the past eight years of our lives very worthwhile and it has been a tremendous honor to serve you and your family. Louisiana has given so much to me and I will forever cherish this experience.
Together, with your spirit, work ethic and incredible propensity for success, we were able to make big changes in our state for the better. I have no doubt that Louisiana and her people will continue to thrive for generations to come.
Bobby Jindal is the outgoing governor of Louisiana.