If you feel you’ve been getting mixed signals about the need for more state revenue vs. the need for more tax cuts, there’s good reason.
If you’re a bit confused about the fiscal health of the State of Louisiana, you’re certainly not alone.
If you think you can call for budget cuts, college tuition fee increases, and spending freezes in-state and then run around the country and crow to Sean Hannity about how good things are in Louisiana, then you’re Gov. Piyush Jindal.
Only Piyush would insist on having it both ways.
If you have your head out of the sand and are not fooled for one nano-second by his Protestant church appearances and pseudo-reform measures, then you’re a Louisiana voter with at least a modicum of intelligence.
For your edification and in no particular order, we offer the following condensed news items about Louisiana’s economy that have appeared over the past several months. The lone exception to that time frame is the first story that appeared four years ago and which set the stage for those to follow:
• May 2008: Gov. Jindal repeals the Stelly Plan, estimated to cost the state as much as $300 million per year. Jindal said the repeal could save single tax filers as much as $500 per year and joint filers up to $1,000. What he did not say was that single filers would need to make as much as $90,000 and joint filers $150,000 per year to realize the maximum savings.
• July 2011: Louisiana earns a no. 1 ranking for economic development for the third consecutive year from the Southern Business and Development magazine. The Lake Charles American Press said, “Much of that credit belongs to Gov. Bobby Jindal.”
• April 2012: The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference projected a drop in $210 million in revenue for the remainder of the current fiscal year and another $304 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. “The problem is the economy, lamented Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office.
• October 2011: President Obama should take a cue from Louisiana on job creation, Jindal tells Faux newsman Sean Hannity. “Every year I have been governor, our employment rate has been below the southern and national averages,” he said. “We’ve added 45,000 jobs in economic developments and $10 billion in private capital investments, three years in a row.”
• May 2012: Louisiana’s full-time college students may be forced to pay an extra $300 per semester in new fees to help cover massive budgetary cutbacks by colleges and universities. College tuition costs in Louisiana have increased 30 percent since Jindal took office in 2008.
• April 2012: Even with the state’s budget problems piling up and income projections plummeting, Jindal continues to see his administration through rose-colored glasses. “More people are working in Louisiana than ever before,” he said, citing 44,000 imaginary jobs added over the past year. Sen. Ed Murray, keeping it real, asked, perhaps somewhat rhetorically, “When is our state going to see the positive impact (of the alleged jobs)? We keep having to have budget cuts because revenues are down.”
• June 2011: a reporter writing in the Detroit Free Press noted that Louisiana jumped to No. 1 in Site Selection magazine’s 2011 overall competitiveness ranking in terms of attracting corporate investment. He said Louisiana and Jindal were doing “a lot of smart things to turn (the economy) around.” Comparing Louisiana to Michigan, the reporter said, “If Louisiana could rebound during the downturn of 2008-09, there’s hope here, too.”
• March 2012: Jindal issues Executive Order No. BJ 2012-3 initiating a spending freeze for state agencies pursuant to projected budgetary shortfalls. The spending freeze augments a hiring freeze ordered in July of 2011.
• April 2012: In an email to supporters, Jindal touts a number of industrial expansions in the state. “The bottom line is that Louisiana is on the move,” he said. “Our state is climbing up in the rankings and securing economic development wins that build momentum for a better and more prosperous Louisiana. There’s still work to be done, but we’re making tremendous progress.” Jindal called for continued tax cuts, revamping workforce training programs and “transformative education reforms.” He said Louisiana is taking steps “that signal to the business community that our state is the best place in the world for companies to invest and create jobs.”
• April 2012: Since 2008, the year Jindal took office, Louisiana’s per capita income ranking has soared from 29th in the nation to 28th. The per capita income of $38,578 for the state in 2011 compares to the national average of $41,663. But we are ahead of Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. We do rank near the top in violent crime, however. While we’re way down at 33rd in rapes, we’re 18th in robbery, 14th in auto theft, 9th in burglary, 4th in assault and—drum roll, please—first in murder. Overall, Louisiana ranks third in violent crime.
• May 2012: Chief Executive magazine announces that CEOs nationwide rank Louisiana as the most improved state for business in the U.S., going from 27th in 2011 to 13th this year. “Since we took office in 2008, we’ve worked tirelessly to create a business environment where companies want to invest and create jobs for our people. We’ve reined in government spending, eliminated job-killing taxes on business, created customized workforce training programs and overhauled our governmental ethics laws.”
• November 2011: The U.S. Census Bureau, in noting that poverty has been on the rise since the 2008 recession, release statistics that show the poverty rate for Louisiana to be 18.8 percent, which is 3.5 percent higher than the national average of 15.3 percent.
• April 2012: Area Development magazine ranks Louisiana No. 6 among the Top States for Doing Business in 2011. Business Facilities magazine named the Louisiana Office of Economic Development’s (LED) FastStart the nation’s best state workforce training program in both 2010 and 2011, calling the Louisiana program “the gold standard for workforce training solutions.”
• May 2012: Legislators are considering whether to use Louisiana’s “rainy day” fund to help offset a $211 million shortfall projected by the Revenue Estimating Conference. “I don’t know that there are a whole lot of options left at this point in time,” said House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles). Jindal’s office indicated that the governor would consider using the rainy day money. “We’re prepared to make reductions, but we’re open to different ideas from legislators that part of a balanced budget that doesn’t raise taxes and protects critical services,” said Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin.
• April 2012: Pollina Corporate Real Estate names Louisiana the most-improved state in the nation in its ranking of business-friendly states. “We have noticed an increase in the number of companies that are considering a move to the state or want to have the state evaluated as a potential location,” the report said.
• February 2012: Gov. Jindal proposes a $25.5 billion state operating budget that would close prisons, eliminate more than 6,000 state jobs, cut rates for health-care providers who treat the poor and freeze, for a fourth consecutive year, per-public basic state aid to public schools. Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said a projected $895 million shortfall would mean “holding the line on certain anticipated cost increases.”
• April 2012: Southern Business & Development magazine named Louisiana as the 2011 State of the Year for the third consecutive year. Louisiana earned the highest project score per capita in the magazine’s history.
• April 2012: Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington), questioned the lack of accountability in allowing LED to offer increased tax breaks for payroll, relocation costs and corporate income and franchise taxes for businesses the state wants to attract. “It looks like we just give sort of a blank check to the Department of Economic Development, and it doesn’t come from their money. It comes from the treasury,” he said. The various state tax exemptions have cost Louisiana more than $18 billion over the past four years.
Incentives already offered by LED include Enterprise Zone, Quality Jobs, Restoration Tax Abatement, Industrial Tax Exemption, Research and Development Tax Credit, Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit, Digital Medial Incentive, Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit, Live Performance Tax Credit, Louisiana FastStart, Technology Commercialization Credit and Jobs Program, Modernization Tax Credit, Small Business Loan Program, Micro Loan Program, Bonding Assistance Program, Veteran Initiative and Mentor-Protégé Tax Credit.