A Look At Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's Budget Tactics
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics have heavily relied on quick fixes rather than matching state spending to annual revenue. Here are some of the ways Jindal made the math work each year:
To piece together the budgets each year, Jindal has raided a series of reserve funds across state government. The reserves tracked by the state treasurer's office have dropped from $9.3 billion when Jindal first took office to $6.8 billion today, some of which is untouchable.
The state's "rainy day" fund has fallen from $776 million in 2008 to $445 million this year, and part of that reduction will have to be repaid by Jindal's successor as part of a legal settlement. A trust fund set up for elderly services sat at $832 million seven years ago and will be almost entirely drained by the end of the budget year on June 30.
A state employee health insurance reserve fund that is used to pay patient claims once reached $500 million. It has dwindled to $123 million and its balance continues falling, as the Jindal administration temporarily lowered health premiums to help drop state agency costs in tight budget years, eating into the reserves to cover insurance costs.
Jindal, backed by lawmakers, increased the use of budget maneuvers called "fund sweeps," where dollars earmarked for other purposes are instead transferred to plug general holes in the budget.
In many instances, the dollars come from fines and fees that people paid for specific purposes, but the money was diverted from those uses. The sweeps range from as little as a few hundred dollars to millions redirected from their intended purposes.
To fill budget gaps, Jindal took money that had been earmarked for post-conviction DNA testing for the poor, state park repairs, litter prevention, oyster sanitation, seafood marketing, derelict crab trap removal, reptile research and tobacco regulation. He used slot machine proceeds that were supposed to pay for services for the blind to instead cover financial holes elsewhere.
In one of the largest diversions, Jindal and lawmakers took at least $45 million that oil and gas companies had donated to turn old drilling rigs into artificial reefs that help attract marine life, create fishing spots and aid in coastal restoration efforts. Instead, it was used to pay for general government services.
Even with all the patchwork financing, Jindal couldn't stave off cuts. The heaviest hits have fallen on Louisiana's higher education institutions. State financing for the four university systems has been cut by about $700 million since 2008.
With a more than 34 percent reduction over five years, no other state in the nation has cut higher education financing more than Louisiana, according to Grapevine, which tracks state support for colleges and is overseen by Illinois State University's Center for the Study of Education Policy.
Meanwhile, costs have been shifted to students and their families. Average in-state student tuition at Louisiana's four-year public colleges has increased 66 percent since Jindal took office, according to data from the College Board.