Gov. Bobby Jindal is a smart man. A biography could be written on his academic achievements alone. But he will not serve as this nation’s 45th president.
Or at least, for the sake of our beloved county, I sure hope he doesn’t.
The reason is simple — he has neglected his own state while the state budget expands quicker than its revenues, necessitating mid-year budget cuts for five years straight.
For LSU, this has meant state-appropriated funding, a.k.a. money the school receives from the state, has shrunk significantly in recent years, much like Louisiana’s wetlands.
In the meantime, Jindal has entertained Louisiana residents with his finest disappearing act (the inspiration for my column) by traveling around the nation campaigning on behalf of himself and his party, in an exercise many political commentators believe foretells a run at the White House in 2016.
Here’s a summary of Jindal’s travels last week from a story published in Monday’s edition of The Advocate:
“Jindal was the final speaker Sunday at the National Review Institute Summit on “The Future of Conservatism” in Washington, and he gave virtually the same speech he did three days prior when he was the keynote speaker at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Charlotte.”
But let’s not forget how much can change in four years.
For the purposes of this story, I’ll focus on numbers from the LSU’s Office of Budget and Planning.
Four years ago, LSU was budgeted to receive about $250 million total in state funding. I say “budgeted to receive” because, like I mentioned before, this dollar amount shrank midway through the fiscal year (in January, since the fiscal year begins in July) every single year.
This year the state is budgeted to chip in $145 million total ($9 million under the initial budget). That’s $100 million less, a 40 percent cut in state-appropriated funds in only four years.
The reason students haven’t felt the University’s pain is because LSU’s revenue has increased to offset the cuts through increased tuition, fees and alternative revenue sources (ex: LSU Athletics donation).
But this trend cannot sustain Louisiana’s Flagship University.
The problem stems from state constitution restrictions preventing budget cuts in most (about 92 percent) of the state’s $25 billion budget.
$25.5 billion may seem like a lot of money — but not when $23 billion is virtually uncuttable without changing laws or rewriting the state’s constitution.
Right off the top, about $11 billion comes from the federal government, which means it usually has tight spending restrictions (as in, you can only spend this money on this one program/department/etc.).
Another $6 billion falls under the statutory dedications and self-generated revenue categories. All you need to know is that means it cannot be cut from mid-year, essentially.
That leaves us with about $8.5 billion — roughly the sum of the state’s general fund, which is broken down into two categories: discretionary and Non-discretionary funds.
Non-discretionary ($5.9 billion), by definition, means the state does not have the right to spend this money however it wants.
OK — what’s left?
About $2.4 billion (forgive my rounding) in discretionary funding. Finally, something we can cut from.
Of that $2.4 billion, higher education and health and hospitals account for the majority of the pie. Meaning when it comes time to cut, they have the largest pieces to take from.
How do we fix this?
I’m not sure. Mr. Governor — please come home and help us.
Ben Wallace is a 21-year old Mass Communication major from Tyler, Texas.