[StBernard] Philly Inquirer: Jindal cuts La. budget 25% and sky doesn't fall

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sun Nov 6 17:46:25 EST 2011

Jindal cuts La. budget 25% and sky doesn't fall

Philadelphia Inquirer
Jim Geraghty
November 6, 2011

"In January 2008, the state had a budget of $34.3 billion. This summer,
Jindal signed into law a budget spending $25 billion. As governors from
Harrisburg to Trenton to Columbus to Madison have learned, cutting a state's
budget is difficult enough; doing so without a significant backlash seems a
politically impossible task...

Decades of mismanagement and corruption had taken their toll even before
Hurricane Katrina wreaked such devastation and exposed such colossal
unresponsiveness in state government. The state, recognizing the bitter
fruit of its traditions of colorful corruption, was ready to take a chance
on a then-37-year-old Indian American congressman...

His administration privatized the state's Office of Risk Management. Then
the state's Division of Administration privatized claims management and loss
prevention in the self-insurance program, saving $20 million over five
years. The Department of Health and Hospitals privatized six inpatient,
residential-treatment programs around the state, saving $2.5 million.
Separately, patients were moved from state-operated institutions that cost
$600 or more per patient per day to community-based services and private
group homes that average $191 per day, saving an additional $23.8 million.

Consolidation was another key element: The state's Department of Revenue
shrank from eight offices statewide to three. The Department of Children and
Family Services consolidated its offices from 157 to 90, saving a total of
$2.7 million.

But some of Jindal's cuts are the old-fashioned kind. The state sold 1,300
vehicles from its fleet of automobiles. Louisiana's Transportation
Department shut down a ferry that was used by only 7,200 drivers per year,
saving the state roughly three-quarters of a million dollars.

In fiscal 2011, Louisiana eliminated more than 3,500 full-time government
positions. Add the 6,363 previous reductions during Jindal's term, and that
means a total of almost 9,900 full-time positions reduced since he took the
oath, a savings of almost $600 million. Louisiana now has the lowest level
of full-time state government employees in almost 20 years.

'You change people's expectations and you make structural changes,' Jindal
said, while racing around the state about three weeks before the election.
'The most important is this cultural change, to say government is not the
answer to everything...'

Jindal's first term was marked by several high-profile crises he
successfully managed - Hurricane Gustav and the response to the BP oil
spill, along with the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on all
drilling in the Gulf of Mexico - but the state's economy has generally
chugged along: Louisiana's unemployment rate is 7.1 percent, two percentage
points lower than the national average, and a comparably booming economy
makes cuts in state spending much easier to take.

'If you have a good-paying job with benefits, you wouldn't need the state to
do so many things for you,' Jindal says. 'You become less dependent, and
that diminishes the role of the state and so you need fewer state employees,
and it's a virtuous cycle. You can lower taxes and lower government

Skeptics can argue that post-Katrina Louisiana represents a unique case of a
state's electorate abandoning all aspects of a failed status quo. But what
today's Louisiana demonstrates is that after the reforms were enacted, the
sky didn't fall...

Smaller, more efficient state governments may not be such an impossible
dream after all..."

Read more in the Philadelphia Inquirer

More information about the StBernard mailing list