In a startling interview with a reporter with the national politics website Politico this week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal unleashed a furious and devastatingly accurate attack of his own higher education policies.
In a typically rambling, stream of consciousness, 45-minute telephone interview with Jindal, reporter Jonathan Martin landed this whopper from the 2016 Republican presidential nomination seeker:
“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”
Clearly, the Governor should spend more time in Louisiana which might enable him to become more familiar with the impact of his own policies. The Governor’s $600 million in cuts in higher education over the past five years have shifted a heavier burden on Louisiana working and middle class families in the form higher tuition and fees at all levels of post-secondary education in Louisiana.
Tuition and fees at Louisiana’s universities, community and technical colleges have gone up as much as 50% during that time, making up for some of the financial losses to the institutions — but on the backs of Louisiana families. Some of that financial pain on families was actually deflected for a time by funding from President Obama’s stimulus legislation passed by Congress in early 2010 — something the Governor would loathe to admit.
In all, the state of Louisiana pays less support for public colleges and universities than do students and their families after five years of Jindal’s higher education budget cuts. That burden falls particularly hard on middle and low income families. The Louisiana Budget Project’s 2011 report on state support for higher education found that the cost of tuition at a four-year public college or university in Louisiana required between 29% and 100% of the total family income of middle and working class families. That was before the Jindal cuts and the cost shifts began.
The Governor and his supporters would have you believe that the cuts in state support for higher education were necessary due to the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis. To the extent that there is a crisis, it is of Jindal’s own making.
The first hole in state finances was created at the end of his first Regular Session as Governor when he signed the repeal of the income tax bracket portion of the Stelly Plan. It is a gift to the top income earners that has kept on taking from state government. The most recent estimate by The Louisiana Budget Project was that the income tax repeal approved by Jindal had cost Louisiana $1.8 Billion in revenue – and that was two years ago.
Not to be outdone (the repeal of the income tax portion of the Stelly Plan was not Jindal’s idea), the Governor has since embarked on a four-year long spasm of awarding tax exemptions to corporations that has dropped annual corporate tax revenue in Louisiana from more than $1 Billion to just over $100 Million in the most recently completed fiscal year, according to the Department of Revenue’s “Tax Exemption Budget” released earlier this year. There are estimates that in the current fiscal year, the State of Louisiana will actually have a net negative corporate tax rate — that is, the state will write out more in exemption checks than it takes in through corporate tax dollars.
Let’s recap: Under Bobby Jindal, cuts in higher education funding have shifted an ever increasing financial burden onto middle and working class families in the form of higher tuition and fees. Meanwhile, the Governor has established himself as a serial author of tax policies that favor the wealthiest Louisianans over the interests of the middle and working class families, as well as an ardent proponent of welfare for corporations in the form of tax exemptions. Giving away all that money is the force driving the cuts in higher education (and health care, but we’ll deal with that separately).
So, if Bobby Jindal truly believes the words he spouted to Politico, then he has met the enemy of his party and he is it!
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Originally published: Nov 15, 2012