In November, Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards received some great news: by a wide margin, the Democrat had been elected governor. At the same time, however, he also received some rather dreadful news: Edwards was now the governor of Louisiana, responsible for cleaning up a catastrophic mess left by Republican Bobby Jindal.
As the New York Times reported yesterday, Pelican State policymakers – a Democratic governor’s office working with a Republican-led legislature – are moving forward with a plan to undo some of what Jindal did, at least temporarily.
Facing the threat of layoffs, cancellation of university classes and a suspension of health care services, state lawmakers avoided more than $900 million in budget cuts by passing a package of tax increases and spending reductions Wednesday in the closing moments of a special session.But large shortfalls still plague the state and will continue to play out as a regular session convenes on Monday.
The package includes restructuring the state sales tax – removing exemptions and increasing it a penny – but at Republicans’ insistence, the increases are temporary. The New York Times article added that the new agreement also includes “higher taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, car rentals, cellphones, landlines and short-term rooms booked through websites.” Policymakers also “rolled back a tax credit enjoyed by the insurance industry, and they approved a framework for collecting sales taxes from online retailers.”
Despite this, the package didn’t close all of the state’s massive budget shortfall, and more cuts are on the way.
Bobby Jindal’s failures were just that bad. The Washington Post added last week:
Already, the state of Louisiana had gutted university spending and depleted its rainy-day funds. It had cut 30,000 employees and furloughed others. It had slashed the number of child services staffers, including those devoted to foster family recruitment, and young abuse victims for the first time were spending nights at government offices.And then, the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards (D), came on TV and said the worst was yet to come.
The source of the crisis is hardly a mystery. As the Post reported, experts have found that Louisiana’s structural budget deficit “emerged and then grew under former governor Bobby Jindal, who, during his eight years in office, reduced the state’s revenue by offering tax breaks to the middle class and wealthy. He also created new subsidies aimed at luring and keeping businesses. Those policies, state data show, didn’t deliver the desired economic growth.”
In other words, a right-wing governor, working with a Republican legislature, tried to implement a conservative governing agenda. The result is a disaster Louisiana is going to struggle for years to clean up.
If you missed Rachel’s segment last week on states damaged by Republican governance, it’s worth revisiting – especially for its focus on Louisiana.