Saturday, February 07, 2015

Voodoo Economics at Work

Mr. Jindal spoke in Washington on Thursday. He withdrew a tax overhaul plan for Louisiana after widespread criticism. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
As Jindal’s G.O.P. Profile Grows, So Do Louisiana’s Budget Woes

By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON
FEB. 6, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. — In recent weeks, the office of Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has issued news releases about the “mindless naïveté” of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the folly of opening diplomatic relations with Cuba and the threat of radical Islam in Europe, prompting a flurry of commentary about what it all might mean to Republican voters in Iowa and South Carolina should Mr. Jindal decide, as has long been expected, to run for president.

But here in the Louisiana capital, there is mostly one topic on everyone’s mind these days, and it is quite distressingly close to home: the fiscal reckoning the state is facing for next year and perhaps for multiple budgets to come.

“Since I’ve been in Louisiana I’ve never seen a budget cycle as desperate as this one,” said Robert Travis Scott, the president of the Public Affairs Research Council, a nonpartisan group based in Baton Rouge.

Louisiana’s budget shortfall is projected to reach $1.6 billion next year and to remain in that ballpark for a while. The downturn in oil prices has undoubtedly worsened the problem, forcing midyear cuts to the current budget. But economists, policy experts and lawmakers of both parties, pointing out that next year’s projected shortfall was well over a billion dollars even when oil prices were riding high, turn to a different culprit: the fiscal policy pushed by the Jindal administration and backed by the State Legislature.

“Is he responsible for the full $1.6 billion?” Mr. Scott asked. “I’d say no. But I’d say he’s responsible for the order of magnitude.”

In a state the size of Louisiana, the shortfall is huge. But it is all the more daunting considering that the governor has unequivocally ruled out any plans for new revenue, bone-deep cuts have already been made to health care and higher education, ad hoc revenue sources have been all but drained and robust economic growth has yet to materialize.

Mr. Jindal’s first term began in 2008 with a heady surplus of around $1 billion, high oil prices and a stream of federal disaster recovery money after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. He threw his support behind the largest tax cut in the state’s history and, for a time, had reason to boast about an economy that outperformed the nation’s. But oil prices are fickle, and the recovery money dried up and the recession arrived, if late and in a milder strain than in other states. Since 2010, here as elsewhere, middling has been the new normal.

(More here.)

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