Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, will officially announce his run for the White House this afternoon, joining the ever-growing Republican field. Jindal hopes his experience cutting state spending and shrinking the state’s workforce will help propel him to the presidency. However, like the other governors whose records we have highlighted, Jindal’s fiscal record is not without faults.
Jindal took office in January of 2008, and 2015 will be his last year in office. He has scored well on the Cato Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors earning an “A” in 2010, and a “B” in both 2012 and 2014. All three report cards commend Jindal’s resolve to cut Louisiana state spending.
Since fiscal year 2009, the first full fiscal year of Jindal’s term, state general fund spending has decreased by 7 percent. Per capita state spending has fallen from $2,089 in 2009 to $1,883 in 2015, a decrease of 10 percent. This spending restraint is quite remarkable. For comparison, per capita state spending grew nationally by 8.5 percent during the same time period.
Total state spending, which includes money from the federal government for programs like Medicaid, stayed constant while Jindal was in office. It was $28.9 billion in 2008 compared to $29.1 billion in 2014.
One way that Jindal reduced spending was cutting the state’s workforce. State government employment has decreased 26 percent since he’s been governor, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, he passed broad pension reforms. All state employees hired after July 2013 receive a cash-balance retirement plan, similar to a 401(k) plan, instead of a traditional defined-benefit pension.
Jindal has also cut state higher education spending. State higher education spending fell from $1.1 billion a year in 2009 to $535 million in 2015. His 2016 budget includes further cuts to the state higher education system, but the cuts were avoided in a last-minute budget deal under a complicated financing structure.
Jindal’s strong fiscal record is partly undercut by Louisiana’s generous economic development programs, i.e., corporate welfare. Jindal helped expand the state’s wasteful film tax credit program. In 2013, the state wasted $250 million on the program, which is one of the largest film giveaways in the nation. The state offsets 30 percent of the cost of film production expenses. An episode of Duck Dynasty, the popular television show, represents $330,000 in tax credits to its production company. His administration also gave $36.5 million to the New Orleans Hornets, the professional basketball franchise, to encourage them to stay in New Orleans through the 2024 season. According to research from the Commonwealth Foundation in Pennsylvania, Louisiana was fourth in state economic development spending from 2007 to 2014.
Louisiana general fund spending has fallen during Bobby Jindal’s tenure as governor. At a time when states were increasing spending, Jindal instituted reforms that cut the state workforce and lowered per capita spending. This feat makes Jindal unique among Republican contenders for the presidency.