Jindal’s Grover-Centric Budget “Solution”

Like me, some of you probably noticed when reading about Bobby Jindal’s fiery New York Times op-ed yesterday attacking the business community for its hostility to “religious liberty” laws (like the one he’s pushing in Louisiana) that at the very same time LSU was suggesting that a long-simmering state budget crisis might force it to declare what is known as “fiscal exigency.” As Julia O’Donoghue of the Times-Pic explains:

Being in a state of financial exigency means a university’s funding situation is so difficult that the viability of the entire institution is threatened. The status makes it easier for public colleges to shut down programs and lay off tenured faculty, but it also tarnishes the school’s reputation, making it harder to recruit faculty and students.

I’m sure some cynics assume this is an idle threat to help break a budget stalemate, but on the other hand, LSU’s neighbor institution Southern University’s already gone the “fiscal exigency” route, and if the budget situation isn’t resolved without giant budget cuts, public colleges and universities could face reductions of more than 80% of their state funding.

So where’s the state’s two-term governor on all this? His key “solution” to the budget stalemate has been to cap state credits to a locally-imposed (and hugely important to Louisiana parishes) business inventory tax at the actual tax owed (right now it’s refundable). He’s chosen that avenue, according to just about every observer, because Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform considers any refundable part of tax credits spending rather than a tax cut, so getting rid of it won’t be scored as a tax increase. He is meanwhile threatening to veto any revenue measures that would be deemed tax increases by ATR, including some of the corporate “economic development” giveaways he’s championed in the past.

The refundable credit repeal has predictably drawn the ire of the Louisiana business community, and of the term-limited Jindal’s likely successor as Republican nominee for governor, Sen. David Vitter. So these people are supporting a total repeal of the inventory tax, and in a nice bit of hypocrisy, so is Jindal. The repeal would screw local governments, of course, and Jindal’s already opposing just about anything feasible to make them whole, but why should Bobby care? He’s on the way out the door; his local approval ratings are in the tank anyway; and in the mean time, Grover Norquist is happy with him.

I noted yesterday that Jindal’s saber-rattling challenge to the business community to do their worst to Louisiana in terms of canceled conventions and boycotts in response to Bobby’s proposed “religious liberty” bill was a particular betrayal of gay-friendly and tourism-and-convention-dependent New Orleans. But in the context of what Bobby’s trying to do to Orleans Parish, some of the surrounding parishes, and the state’s university system, it’s almost a footnote.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.