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Additional checks by LouisianaVoice into the expenditure of campaign funds after leaving office has revealed that Troy Hebert, director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control was something of a piker in what appear to be his inappropriate expenditures of $39,000 in campaign contributions long after he left the Louisiana Senate in November of 2010.

Campaign reports examined by LouisianaVoice show that two former governors combined to spend more than $600,000 on what would appear to be such non-allowable expenditures as clerical salaries, club memberships, consulting fees, federal taxes, internet fees, office equipment, and something called “constituent relations” long after there were no longer any constituents. shall not be used for any perso

Three other former legislators who, like Hebert, now serve in other appointive capacities in state government were also checked at random and found to have combined for a little more than $22,000 in post-office-holding expenditures that appear to be for purposes specifically disallowed by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

But former governors Kathleen Blanco and Mike Foster have made generous use of their leftover campaign bank accounts by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for similarly disallowable purchases and expenditures.

Campaign expenditures for former governors Buddy Roemer and Edwin Edwards were not available on the State Ethics Board’s web page.

At the same time, we found one former legislator who has not spent a penny of his leftover campaign funds—for anything. Democrat Dudley “Butch” Gautreaux of Morgan City has spent none of his campaign funds—for any purpose—since leaving office in January of 2012. We sincerely hope there are others.

Foster, a Republican, accounted for more than $201,000 in apparent non-allowable expenditures from his campaign fund. He had the following expense items listed in his campaign expenditure report:

  • $3,000 for internet service;
  • $66,675 for clerical payroll;
  • $70,000 for copiers and other office equipment and maintenance contracts;
  • $9,400 in dues to the Camelot Club and City Club, both in Baton Rouge;
  • $4,300 in workers’ compensation insurance premiums for office staff;
  • $25,000 for bookkeeping services;
  • $9,800 in federal income tax payments on office staff;
  • $13,500 for “constituent services”;
  • $403 in payments to M.J. Foster Farms—an apparent reimbursement to himself for unknown expenditures.

In addition, Foster contributed to numerous causes, including $1,000 to a lamppost restoration drive in his hometown of Franklin and other charitable civic and church organizations and several political candidates. Only his contributions to political candidates and to the Louisiana Republican Party appeared to have been allowable under Ethics Board regulations.

Democrat Blanco easily eclipsed Foster with more than $400,000 in expenditures described in various Ethics Board opinions as not allowable for purposes “related to a political campaign or the holding of a public office.”

Some of her questionable expenditures included:

  • $188,000 for communication consulting;
  • $88,000 in clerical salaries;
  • $67,000 in donations to various causes;
  • $64,500 in tech support;

To be fair, however, there was brief speculation that Blanco would oppose Jindal in his re-election campaign of 2011 until health considerations took her out of that race. Any funds spent in exploration of a possible run would probably be looked upon favorably as campaign-related. Charitable contributions are allowed under certain conditions, such as in the cases of pro-rata refunds of unused contributions but otherwise such use of campaign funds for charitable donations is not allowed. We found an Ethics opinion that addresses that very issue: James David Cain

Like Foster, she also contributed generously to several political candidates as well as to the Louisiana Democratic Party, all allowable under Ethics Board regulations.

Former Sen. Anne Duplessis (D-New Orleans), now a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors ($13,440), former Rep. Kay Katz (R-Monroe), now a member of the Louisiana Tax Commission ($7,700), and former Rep. and former Sen. Noble Ellington (R-Winnsboro), now Chief Deputy Commissioner of Insurance ($1,300), each also had combined expenditures from their respective campaign funds totaling about $22,400 for purposes not allowed, according to Ethics Board regulations.

Small as those expenditures were when contrasted to Blanco, Foster or even Hebert, however, the samplings of more than $662,000 in questionable expenditures found by LouisianaVoice for only six former office holders—and the many examples of misuse of campaign funds by current officer holders—illustrates the critical lack of oversight of the manner in which office holders and former office holders alike live the good life off, what for many of them, is tax-free income most times in the tens of thousands of dollars but in some cases, six figures.

Campaign funds are contributed by donors, such as lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests who want something in return, like a favorable vote on a key issue. And because the politicians generally oblige, the donors couldn’t care less how campaign funds are spent. The funds are donated for the wrong reasons, so why should they care if they are spent for the wrong reasons?

That in a nutshell is what is wrong with our political system today. Far too much quid pro quo, a few winks, a couple of drinks over steak or lobster and donors look the other way as the recipient enjoys nice restaurants, club memberships, luxury car leases and tickets to college and pro athletic events and perhaps the occasional hooker.

Two things can occur to rein in this abuse:

The Louisiana Legislature, in a rare (and we do mean rare) moment of integrity and soul-searching, could enact binding laws governing who can contribute to campaigns (such as tracking the federal elections laws prohibiting corporate contributions), limiting PAC funds and spelling out in detail how campaign funds may and may not be spent.

But don’t look for that to happen in this or any other lifetime. Like corporations and banks, politicians just aren’t going to self-regulate without including a gaggle of hidden loopholes in any legislation that might happen to address the issue. You can bet any legitimate attempt will either be killed outright or amended to death in committee.

The other—and this, sadly, is just as unlikely—the voters of Louisiana will, in unity, say “ENOUGH!” They will, like Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network, scream out their windows, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” and they will turn out of office any legislator who so much as buys the first ticket to a football game or dines at a fine restaurant or leases a luxury auto with campaign funds. And in equal unanimity, they will demand reimbursement of all funds wrongly spent by current and former office holders alike.

But a final word of caution: That would be in a perfect world so don’t hold your breath.

 

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Because of our limited staff (one, plus a few occasional contributors), we often fall behind in our efforts to keep up with the news of our misbehaving public officials. We try to keep up, but these guys are pretty slick and very resourceful in finding new ways to siphon off funds, whether they be state funds or contributions from campaign supporters.

So, today, we will highlight a couple of politicos who are very tight: Bobby Jindal and his director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), Troy Hebert (whose wife just happens to be the Jindal children’s pediatrician, we’re told).

We have an update on the status of Frederick Tombar III, who, like Hebert was appointed to a high-level position in the Jindal administration only to harass himself out of a job.

Tombar, it seems, has landed on his feet after leaving his $260,000 a year job as director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation because of some sexually explicit emails he sent to two female employees—one, a contract employee and the other an actual employee of the agency.

Both women attempted to put off Tombar’s advances because of fear of losing their jobs but eventually each filed complaints and Tombar left before he could be interviewed during an investigation by Ron Jackson, Human Resources Director for the Division of Administration.

Not to worry. We’re told by sources that Tombar, of New Orleans, had a soft landing at Cornerstone Government Affairs consulting company where he will work alongside two former state Commissioners of Administration, Mark Drennan and Paul Rainwater. http://www.cgagroup.com/index.html

http://www.cgagroup.com/team/RainwaterPaul.html

http://www.cgagroup.com/team/mark_drennen.html

Efforts to reach both Drennan and Rainwater for comment were unsuccessful.

It’s not known what Tombar’s salary at Cornerstone will be, but we are willing to bet it doesn’t approach the quarter-million a year he was making as a Jindal appointee.

That other appointee mentioned earlier, Troy Hebert, of whom much has been written here, little of it good, recently sent a bill to former ATC agent Howard Caviness of West Monroe who now serves as Grambling State University chief of police. Well, actually, the bill was not from Hebert, but from the agency under which he serves, the Department of Revenue (LDR).

The invoice, for all of $123.59 is for an alleged overpayment to Caviness in Dec. of 2012, according to the letter dated April 29 which is stamped “2nd notice.” Supposedly, the $123.59, when collected, will go to help patch over Jindal’s $1.6 billion budget deficit. LDR letter

Attached to the letter is a time sheet for the two-week time period of Nov. 26—Dec. 9, 2012, with no explanation other than a hand-scrawled, “will leave a balance owed.” ATC timesheet

(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

Caviness, contacted by LouisianaVoice, feels the action is in retaliation for his having testified on behalf of another former agent, Brett Tingle, who Hebert fired while Tingle was recovering from a heart attack.

Reprisals against a state employee by officials in the Jindal administration? Surely not!

But that would fit the modus operandi of Hebert and would give credence to a third former agent who revealed she was ordered to conduct an investigation of LouisianaVoice publisher Tom Aswell (that would be me). That former agent admitted that she did indeed follow through on the investigation but found me “rather boring.” We’ll take boring any day.

But we did our own nosing around and found that Hebert played pretty fast and loose with campaign donors’ money while he was still a state senator—and even after he left office to take over operations at ATC after Jindal did a number on former ATC Director Murphy Painter.

At the top of the list, as with the case of so many office holders, was his $12,165 expenditure for the purchase of what seems to be the most sought-after perk of all state politicians: LSU football tickets—$4,930 of that well after he left the House of Representatives in 2010 to become head of ATC. It’s somewhat difficult to see how whose expenditures, especially the $4,930 spent after he left office, could be justified as being “related to the holding of public office,” as state campaign expense laws clearly dictate. related to a campaign  personal use  cannot use campaign funds for personal use

But, as they say in those cheesy TV commercials, “Wait! There’s more!”

Our boy Troy also shelled out the following amounts for other seeming unrelated purposes:

  • Nov. 11, 2014: All State Sugar Bowl tickets, $590 (again, quite a stretch in tying this to holding public office); SUGAR BOWL
  • April 22, 2009: Sullivan’s Restaurant, Baton Rouge, $2,323.10 for a fundraiser; RESTAURANTS
  • April 1, 2010: Delta Airlines, $691.80 (no explanation of any destination, but his House district was pretty small and probably didn’t require air travel to get around Iberia Parish; TRAVEL
  • April 1, 2010: Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., $1,505.70. Ah! There’s his destination for that Delta flight. But what was he running for in Washington? HOTELS
  • May 10, 2011: Monteleone Hotel, New Orleans, $500. About those two hotel bills: state regulations limit hotel rooms to a mere $120 per night. Perhaps someone should sent Hebert a bill for the difference. Oh, wait. The rooms were paid out of campaign funds, not the state treasury. So that makes it okay, we guess.  travelguide

Still, $15,452 in campaign expenditures which somehow just don’t pass the smell test for legitimate campaign expenditures, especially $5,520 of which was spent after he left office.

And then there’s Jindal.

Since 2009, a year after he first took office, he has racked up an eye-popping expenditure of $169,597 in hotel room costs alone. TRAVEL

Even more revealing, all but $30,000 of that ($139,660) has been since his re-election in October of 2011, evidence that he has spent precious little time in Louisiana performing the “job he always wanted,” and the job to which he was elected.

Jindal also spent more than $185,000 in campaign money since 2003 on air travel, his campaign expense records show. Because his travel expenses were about equally divided between pre- and post-re-election in 2011, it would indicate that much of his lodging was provided by organizations to whom he was speaking.

By running as an “undeclared” candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, he was able to make free use of campaign funds he reaped while running for and serving as governor. That would explain why he is so cagey about his non-candidacy candidacy: the rules change and federal regulations kick in once he is a declared candidate. His self-serving claim to be “praying for guidance” over his decision has little or nothing to do with it; it’s all about the way he can spend the money.

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dis·crim·i·na·tion

dəˌskriməˈnāSH(ə)n/

noun:

The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things.

Synonyms: prejudice, bias, bigotry, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, unfairness, inequity, favoritism, one-sidedness, partisanship;

hyp·o·crite

ˈhipəˌkrit/

noun:

A person who indulges in hypocrisy (see: Legislature)

sub·ser·vi·ent

səbˈsərvēənt/

adjective

prepared to obey others unquestioningly.

Synonyms: submissive, deferential, compliant, obedient, dutiful, biddable, docile, passive, unassertiveInformal: under someone’s thumb (see: Legislators, Norquist)

What is it about this time of year that turns a group of men and women into blithering idiots, incapable of comprehending the inconsistencies they perpetuate in the name of good government?

Take House Bill 418 by Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette) and SB 204 by Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie), for two prime examples. HB 418 SB204

Both bills, being pushed hard by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (read: Bobby Jindal), would abolish forbid payroll deductions for public employee unions.

Stephen Waguespack, who previously worked in Jindal’s 2007 campaign and later served as Jindal’s executive counsel and chief of staff, is president of LABI.

Jindal, looking more and more like Scott Walker with each passing day, apparently wants to emulate the Wisconsin governor who recently said if he were elected president, he would “crush” all unions. http://thinkprogress.org/election/2015/05/04/3654397/scott-walker-says-crush-whats-left-american-unions-elected-president/

“I feel it unethical for taxpayers to pay an individual to deduct union dues when they are not exactly sure what the union dues are for,” sniffed Bishop, apparently oblivious to approved payroll deductions for the Louisiana United Way which may support causes the donor might not wish to endorse. http://theadvocate.com/news/12063375-123/payroll-deduction-for-unions-under

Bishop may also have overlooked the question of ethics involved in his expenditure of $6,240 in campaign funds for LSU football tickets in 2012 and 2013. (Note: one of the entries for April 26, 2013 is a duplicate and should not be counted.)

http://ethics.la.gov/CampaignFinanceSearch/SearchResultsByExpenditures.aspx

Martiny, other than introducing SB 204, has been largely silent on the issue. Perhaps, unlike Bishop, he is hesitant to utter the word “ethical” in light of his own campaign expenditures which eclipse those of his House counterpart.

Campaign finance records show that that Martiny has dipped into $107,475 of his campaign funds to pay for such non-campaign-related expenditures as athletic events, meals, air travel, lodging and casinos.

Here is the breakdown on just the athletic events: Tickets for LSU football ($28,823), New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans ($22,680), New Orleans Saints ($22,670), the 2006 NCAA basketball regionals ($1,480), the 2004 Nokia Sugar Bowl ($600)—altogether, a combined expenditure of $76,252. Additionally, there were unspecified expenditures of $864 for “Augusta” (the Masters Golf Tournament, perhaps?) and $590 for Ticketmaster.

Other “campaign” expenditures for Martiny included $7,300 for furniture, $5926 for hotel and resort accommodations, $4,348 for air fare, $5,705 for nine meals, an average of $634 per lobster (mostly at Ruth’s Chris in Metairie), $1,500 for an apparent membership at Pontchartrain Yacht Club, and $5,000 at two truck stop casinos.

To be fair, he did chip in $4,500 for the Better Government Political Action Committee though it was unclear whose better government he was trying to promote.

In an incredible stretch, supporters of the measures linked union dues to abortion clinics when one supporter said the dues could end up supporting such organizations as Planned Parenthood.

Brigitte Nieland, LABI vice president for workforce development, said Louisiana taxpayers are supporting the automatic collection of dollars to go and fund projects that they say they do not support.”

But opponents say the bills are just measures to gut unions and to silence workers by handing more power to big corporations. “It is a way of getting unions out of the way of these large corporations and state political or legislative agendas that are not education or education-friendly,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.

Voters might be able to conjure up a bit more respect for lawmakers if they would just be honest and say they are trying to destroy public employee unions.

But they just can’t seem to be able to admit that. Instead they create phantom arguments such as preventing members from being forced to spend dues on causes that they oppose and, most implausible, that it eases the burden on the state to collect the dues.

Unless you happen to be LABI member Lane Grigsby. Bob Mann recently had a post on his Something Like the Truth blog in which Grigsby said on video (since removed from LABI’s website—did LABI learn transparency from Bobby Jindal?), “When you cut off the unions’ funding, they lose their stroke.” http://bobmannblog.com/2015/05/06/labi-leader-caught-on-video-paycheck-protection-bill-is-fatal-spear-to-the-heart-of-teacher-unions/

Aha! We may at long last have found that honest man Diogenes went searching for with his lamp (until he hit the halls of the Louisiana Legislature at which point he found it necessary to search for his stolen lamp). Anyone seen Scott Walker lurking around the State Capitol?

Why would legislators single out just one payroll deduction when there are literally dozens that are approved by the state?

Approved plans include payroll deductions for savings programs, life insurance, disability insurance, dental insurance, health insurance, the United Way, Secretary of State employees’ Association, Louisiana Wildlife Agents Association, Louisiana State Police Honor Fund, Louisiana State Police Officers Association, Louisiana State Troopers Association, Louisiana Society of Professional Engineers, Fire Marshal Association of Louisiana, Deferred Compensation plans, Probation and Parole Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 50, and….well, you get the picture.

If you really want to know why it’s so important, you need only read the endorsement by none other than Grover Norquist of Washington, D.C., head of Americans for Tax Reform, the man and organization who gives the marching orders (read: no-tax pledge) to legislators and governors all across the country, including Louisiana. https://www.atr.org/louisiana-labor-committee-passes-paycheck-protection-bill

“HB 418 saves taxpayer dollars by taking the government out of the dues collection business,” Norquist says. “No more administrative or financial resources will be used by state government to funnel money to unions that, in turn, often use that very money to work against the interests of Louisiana taxpayers. If the unions want the money, they will have to ask for it themselves.”

And oh, such a financial burden it is for a completely automated, computerized and untouched by human hands system to deduct those nasty dues.

That’s selective reasoning at best.

The House Labor & Industrial Relations Committee, by a 9-6 vote, has approved Bishop’s bill which now goes to the full House for debate.

So now we know for certain that nine members of that committee are still taking their marching orders from Norquist and Jindal.

Here are the committee members. Talk about a stacked deck. http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Cmtes/Labor.aspx

We share the sentiments expressed by Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) that the legislature has more important matters on its plate than spending time trying to inflict yet more punishment on the state’s teaching profession.

Like a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

And yes, we are keenly aware that there were and still are abuses of power in the labor movement. But given the conditions of American labor before the birth of the union movement, I will opt for dealing with those abuses. I would rather not see women and children confined in sweat shops for 12 yours a day for starvation wages. I would rather not see those trying to stand up for their rights clubbed by goons hired by the robber barons. I would rather not see consumers sold rotten meat by the meat packing plants depicted in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Yes, of course there were abuses in the labor movement. There still are. And there’s not in the halls of government and on Wall Street? In case you haven’t been watching the pendulum has swung far back in the other direction—too far. Corporations wield far more power today than labor. Don’t believe it? Look at the campaign contributions. Compare what Labor gives to what corporations give to the PACs. Check out who has bought the most elections over the past 40 years. And don’t even try to play the corruption card.

But Grover’s will must be done for his is the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

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Editor’s note: Normally, we do not make a practice of publishing letters from readers as a guest column. But in this case, we make an exception because we were struck by the manner in which this writer expressed his concern for our state. With only minor editing for punctuation, syntax, etc., we offer here an essay written by a retired state employee now living in Pointe Coupee Parish.

By Kerry Phillips (Special to LouisianaVoice)

After reading this article:  http://louisianavoice.com/2015/04/24/it-wasnt-the-best-week-for-louisiana-as-state-hit-with-triple-whammy-at-least-no-1-lsu-beat-no-2-tex-am-in-baseball/,  and this article: http://bobmannblog.com/2015/04/24/for-jindal-if-the-choice-is-tax-hikes-vs-closing-lsu-its-bye-bye-lsu/, and after watching The Ed Show on April 24 on MSNBC regarding Jindal’s religious freedom bill and how he is truly now a national joke…..and finally, after reading Bobby Jindal’s op-ed in The New York Times, and not hearing anything about any of this in the news with the exception of a small article in The Advocate on the OGB fiasco, I have to say that as much as we love this great state of Louisiana, the heritage, the diversity, the culture, the beauty this state has to offer with many aspects, we will be moving AWAY from this state as soon as we possibly can.

We are at the bottom of every list possible nationwide, and thank God this info is getting out nationwide. We are a laughing stock. And I am sad. Sad for my state. Sad for the people, the young, elderly, poor, government workers, fire fighters, teachers. Should I go on?

I was born here.  I was born in Baton Rouge and attended fantastic schools there. I went to college in this state. I worked for over 30 years as a state employee. I was so proud when I first got my voter’s registration card and I have voted in every election. I retired, thinking my state would honor the commitments they made to me throughout my career.

Sadly, it seems I was fooled.

To know that our legislators are basically bought and paid for by lobbyists and special interests groups who truly have no interest in our state that we call paradise is sad. We have always been known nationwide as a “banana republic.” Now I see why.

No one should say that our citizens move away from this state because of a lack of jobs. They now move away because of this cruel joke that has been perpetrated on us by a handful of people within the last decade. None of these people even care about this state, our education, our colleges, our government workers, our healthcare, etc. What we’re seeing is robbery and pilfering by people who only care about one agenda. And that agenda has nothing to do with the welfare of the citizens of Louisiana. Nor does it have anything to do with our hospitals, our children’s education, or the workers of this state.

So when you turn on the local news and see people with arms folded, waiting and complaining about long lines at their Motor Vehicle offices, thank yourselves. When there is no hospital emergency system available for your loved ones, thank yourselves. When LSU does not exist anymore, God forbid, thank yourselves. When you fail to register your outrage when a contract giving away our state hospitals—with 50 blank pages—only to have the deal rejected by the federal government, thank yourselves.

My family and I plan to move to a more progressive state—to a state where citizens actually live in the current year/century and do not want to take us back to 1915, a state where people want to move forward in a way that benefits all citizens, not just the few. And no, it’s not because of my legislator, who has worked to improve the economy and to help state employees where I live. It’s because I am now becoming ashamed of our state and most of our legislators who helped get us in our current predicament.

I lived in Baton Rouge until we moved to the Central/Greenwell Springs area where I lived for more than 27 years. For the past 15 years, we have lived in Pointe Coupee Parish. And while I’d absolutely hate to leave this state (and it’s an extremely hard choice for me), I do think we’ve made our decision. Our state appears to be done, over with….unless…..our legislators decided to truly quit being Jindal’s lapdog. They need to quit being afraid to buck his system because his system has ruined and bankrupted our state. They need to stop allowing him to be a dictator in this state. He is not our God.

And when religious leaders—from north Louisiana, no less—oppose his religious freedom bill, we welcome their voices. We do not live with the Old Testament laws because with Jesus, a new testament was founded. Do we really want to go back? Are we going to go against what Jesus preached? I’m not. Are we going to allow Jindal’s religious freedom bill to become the hot topic offered only to deflect attention from the real issues, the disasters of his creation: the financial issues we now face that are the direct result of his ineptness?  Come on.

I pray so very hard that all of our legislators, men and women, will grow some courage and principles and do what is right for the whole of this state. I’m not stupid, though. I know legislators get benefits that no average citizen—or state employee—can get.  But, isn’t it time for them to sit back and ask themselves, “Do I really want to sell my soul for some Saints tickets or concert tickets or a fantastic meal at some expensive restaurant? Do I want to sell my soul? Or do I want to do what the citizens of this state want?”  “Do I want to do what Jesus would do?”

Heavy, thought-provoking questions to ask, I know. But, I know what I would do.

This is going to be one of the most historic legislative sessions in this state’s history. It is going to make or break our state. And I am afraid the state is going to break. And the poor, the sick, the elderly will be the ones to suffer.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with people prospering and living a great life. What’s wrong is people prospering and living a great life on the backs of other people.

And so I have this one simple plea for our legislators: For once, do what is right for the whole of the state.  I pray in earnest for that. My friends and I pray hard that the right things will be done. I would love to live here and pass on the culture and treasures this state has to offer to my grandchildren. But, if things continue on as they have for the last decade, we will have to choose differently.

 

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Bobby Jindal has promised to find money to address the funding crisis facing Louisiana’s public colleges and universities but besides the obvious dire financial straits in which the state currently finds itself, two important obstacles must be overcome by our absentee governor: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Grover Norquist.

The odds of appeasing just one in efforts to raise needed funding for higher education will be difficult enough, given Jindal’s allegiance to the two. Obtaining the blessings of both while simultaneously distracted by the siren’s call of the Republican presidential nomination will be virtually impossible.

Higher education, already hit with repeated cuts by the Jindal administration, is facing additional cuts of up to $600 million, or 82 percent of its current budget, according to news coming out of the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/louisianas_higher_education_bu.html

Such a fiscal scenario could result in the closure of some schools and across the board discontinuation of programs.

Moody’s, the bond-rating service, has warned that Louisiana higher education cannot absorb any further cuts. http://www.treasury.state.la.us/Lists/SiteArticlesByCat/DispForm_Single.aspx?List=c023d63e%2Dac65%2D439d%2Daf97%2Dda71d8688dff&ID=884

Louisiana has already cut per student spending by 42 percent since fiscal year 2008 (compared to the national average of 6 percent), fourth highest in the nation behind Arizona, New Hampshire and Oregon. The actual cut in dollars, $4,715 per student, is second only to the $4,775 per student cut by New Mexico. To help offset those cuts, Louisiana colleges and universities have bumped tuition by 38 percent, 10th highest in the nation but still a shade less than half the 78.4 percent increase for Arizona students. http://www.cbpp.org/research/recent-deep-state-higher-education-cuts-may-harm-students-and-the-economy-for-years-to-come?fa=view&id=3927

But that’s all part of the game plan for ALEC, the “model legislation” alliance of state legislators heavily funded by the Koch brothers which has as its overall objective the privatization of nearly all public services now taken for granted: prisons, pension plans, medical insurance, and education, to name but a few. http://www.cbpp.org/research/alec-tax-and-budget-proposals-would-slash-public-services-and-jeopardize-economic-growth?fa=view&id=3901

Jindal has already incorporated some of ALEC’s privatization proposals, namely state employee medical insurance and elementary and secondary education. He met with less success in attempts to initiate prison privatization and state retirement reform.

ALEC also proposes abolishing state income taxes, another proposal floated and then quickly abandoned by Jindal but pushed successfully by Kansas Gov. Brownback. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/21/vwelfap/

And then there is Norquist, the anti-tax Republican operative who founded Americans for Tax Reform and who somehow survived the Jack Abramoff scandal and thrived. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abramoff_Indian_lobbying_scandal

What strange hold does he have over Jindal?

The pledge.

Jindal, as did a couple dozen Louisiana legislators, signed onto Norquist’s “no-tax” pledge—a promise not to raise taxes under any circumstances. The pledge even prompted Jindal to veto a 4-cent cigarette tax renewal in 2011 because in his twisted logic, it was somehow a new tax. The legislature had to adopt a last-minute constitutional amendment to make the tax permanent.

Undeterred, Jindal, through communications director Mike Reed, has said he would support a cigarette tax increase this year only if it is offset with a tax cut elsewhere. This despite estimates that a higher tax would not only generate needed income for the state, but would, by encouraging smokes to quit and teens to not start smoking, create long-term health care savings for the state. His veto also flew in the face of a 1997 article that Jindal authored while secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in which he said, “Society must recover those costs which could have been avoided had the individual not chosen the risky behavior only to prevent others from having to bear the costs.” http://theadvocate.com/news/11930951-123/lawmaker-proposes-154-state-cigarette

Not to be confused with the “no-go” zones of Jindal’s vivid imagination, the “no-tax” pledge apparently is a good thing for Republicans and tea partiers and is considered sacrosanct to those who have taken the oath even if it locks politicians into the impossible situation of trying to resolve a $1.6 billion budgetary crisis while not increasing revenue.

Jindal routinely runs proposed legislation by Norquist for his blessings, according to Jindal spokesperson Reed who admitted as much. http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/03/in_jindals_world_tax_is_a_tax.html

Even U.S. Sen. David Vitter signed the pledge but has assured voters it won’t be binding on him as governor—a dubious promise that would make him unique among signers. After all, a pledge is a pledge and when one signs it, so what difference would it make which office he holds?

So, how does all this figure into the budget crisis for higher education in Louisiana?

In a word, privatization. Or, taking the “state” out of “state universities.”

While neither Jindal nor any legislator has dared breathe the word privatization as it regards the state’s colleges and universities, at least one Jindal appointee, Board of Regents Chairman Roy Martin of Alexandria, has broached the subject, speaking he said, strictly as an individual. http://theadvocate.com/news/11716059-123/regents-look-at-privatizing-public

The slashing of higher education budgets appears to be a pattern as governors attempt to wean colleges and universities from dependence on state funding, transitioning their status from state-supported to state-assisted to state-located. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/02/27/scott-walker-bobby-jindal-aim-to-slash-higher-ed-funding

Privatization of state colleges and universities would, of course, push tuition rates even higher, making a college education cost prohibitive for many. But that dovetails nicely with the ALEC agenda as income disparity continues to widen with ever more generous tax laws that benefit the super-rich while placing growing burdens on lower-income taxpayers. By winnowing out those who can least afford college, privatization necessarily enhances the selection process to serve the elite and at the same time, opens up additional revenue opportunities for those in position to take advantage of privatized services such as book stores, printing, food services, and general maintenance. http://gse.buffalo.edu/FAS/Johnston/privatization.html

There is already a backlog of nearly $2 billion in maintenance projects on state college and university campuses just waiting for some lucky entrepreneur with the right connections.

http://theadvocate.com/home/5997316-125/backlog-of-maintenance

States like Louisiana, by such actions as simply increasing our cigarette tax (third lowest in the nation) and being less generous with corporate tax breaks and initiatives, could have reduced the size of the spending cuts or avoided them altogether. Sadly, that was not done and those looking at someone to blame cannot point the finger only at Jindal; legislators have been complicit from the beginning and must shoulder the responsibility for the present mess.

As a result, state colleges and universities have already cut staff and eliminated entire programs to such a degree that Louisiana’s high school seniors already are considering options out of state and other states are obliging. https://lahigheredconfessions.wordpress.com/

Should the legislature adopt any measures to raise revenue for higher education, such measures likely would be vetoed by Jindal if he gets the message from Norquist to do so.

If that occurs, his palpable disregard for the welfare of this state as evidenced by his growing absence will be dwarfed by the affront of taking his cue of governance from a Washington, D.C. lobbyist as opposed to listening to his constituents who want real solutions and not political grandstanding.

But that certainly would be nothing new for Bobby Jindal.

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