Jindal’s budget shell game and numbers exposed

December 15, 2008

When it comes to the state budget, Gov. Bobby Jindal has been trotting out a litany of supposed accomplishments, inevitably touting a reduction in state spending, a hiring freeze, and eliminating government jobs. Jindal especially loves to recite these talking points to national media, never missing a chance to burnish his credentials as a reformer.

There’s only one problem: the bluster’s highly misleading, and now it’s catching up with Jindal. It started with an analysis column by the Associated Press’ Melinda Deslatte, who noted that legislators have been caught off guard by a projected $1.3 billion shortfall in next year’s budget:

Some of the rhetoric bandied about by Gov. Bobby Jindal hasn't helped matters, particularly about overall spending. Jindal and other administration leaders have talked repeatedly of a multibillion dollar decrease in the current 2008-09 budget.

That's not false, but it also has nothing to do with the actions of the Legislature and governor. The shrinkage is tied to the loss of one-time federal recovery aid after the hurricanes of 2005, a decrease in the budget that lawmakers did not control.

And that hiring freeze? C.B. Forgotston details the real numbers:

As of January 30, 2008 (two weeks after Jindal took office), total state employment was 99,573.

As of December 1, 2008 (Monday), total state employment was 102,351.

That’s an INCREASE of 2,778 state employees in only 10 months.

With the truth becoming public knowledge, now the Jindal administration’s in full-on spin mode. The Advocate’s Michelle Millhollon notes that Jindal’s chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, is trying to stem the tide with some, ahem, fact sheets they’re distributing to Louisiana press. Read the full column here, and note its conclusion:

Regardless, the detailed explanation for the $1 billion increase and the acknowledgement that federal funds contributed to any decrease in the overall budget indicate that the administration is furiously trying to defend Jindal’s reputation as a “fiscal conservative.” Legislators are asking questions that the national media would not know to ask.

Asked about his statements to news organizations such as FOX, Jindal now says that it is the bottom line that is important.
“Your average taxpayer wants to know what’s happening with overall government spending,” Jindal said.

That explanation may work for [Fox News’] Greta Van Susteren, but it no longer works with legislators.

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