Investing in state priorities
By: Bobby Jindal
On the day I took office, I told Louisianians that together we would create a New Louisiana that gives our citizens the opportunities they deserve by taking on bold reforms.
We will not make cosmetic changes that have little to no tangible effects, but substantial changes to the way our state does business. We have been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to turn our state around, and it is not an opportunity I will allow to be wasted.
Chief among our concerns is that for too long, state government has spent billions of dollars with little regard for taxpayers’ money. We have now taken another step toward that New Louisiana by vetoing 258 items in the state’s operating budget - more than double the number of vetoes in the state’s previous 12 budgets combined - totaling more than $16 million. This eliminates a substantial amount of unnecessary spending, such as funding for neighborhood associations, hot air balloon festivals, and playgrounds, sending a signal we will not settle for business as usual.
We are striving for an efficient and transparent state government that wisely invests taxpayer money. There will always be more worthy causes than there will be state funding, but it is our job to ensure tax dollars are spent and invested in state priorities that will further our creation of a Louisiana that encourages business growth and job creation so our kids do not have to leave home to pursue their dreams.
During the recently-completed legislative session, I laid out criteria for legislators to let them know we would support those projects which were state priorities, but would veto state funding for projects that were not. These included ensuring the projects had a substantial regional impact and were openly discussed during the Legislative session. This second point is especially important, as for many years taxpayers have viewed these projects as items that were slipped into the budget in the dark of night with little public attention. This kind of perception serves only to erode the public’s trust in their government.
Many individual taxpayers and good government groups have praised our new outlook on spending taxpayer dollars. Along with the vetoes in the state operating budget, we vetoed an additional 25 projects in a supplemental bill, leading to savings of more than $50 million between the two bills. We will continue to take important steps such as these to instill a strong sense of fiscal discipline in our state’s spending.
Our vetoes come on the heels of five other areas of fiscal reform we have focused on since taking office this past January. In the past six months alone, we have already cut six burdensome taxes, including the largest income tax cut in the history of Louisiana, cut nearly 1,000 unnecessary state jobs, reduced the state’s budget by 12 percent, and eliminated the use of one-time monies for recurring costs, which was like paying your mortgage with a credit card.
We have put forth reforms to the Capital Outlay process, otherwise known as the state’s construction budget, which will ensure projects are in line with state priorities. We have also instituted a system that will give taxpayers more transparency on how their money is being used by creating a new online database of state government spending.
Finally, we have been responsible with investments that have already been made by maintaining facilities at universities, paying down debt in the state’s pension debt and using money as taxpayers had intended. We have done all of this while still increasing funding for roads and giving teachers a $1,000 pay raise to keep them in line with the Southern regional average.
With rising energy prices and a fluctuating housing market, the last thing our people need is to have their hard-earned dollars wasted by politicians. I have long believed citizens can better use their money than the government, and tax dollars should not be viewed as blank checks for the government to spend.
This is especially important in our state, as although the last few years have brought our state excess dollars in oil and gas revenues, we must ensure we do not fall into the boom and bust cycles of the past. Smart spending now can help fight this oncoming problem, while still effectively funding our state priorities – education, health care, roads, and coastal restoration and flood protection. Just because the money is there now does not mean it has to be spent immediately, but instead invested wisely to benefit our children and grandchildren in years to come.
As governor, I will continue to advocate for efficient spending policies that better the future of our state. Our state’s government will no longer be where taxpayers’ dollars are wasted, but are invested to re-energize and revitalize our entire state.
(Bobby Jindal was sworn in as Governor of Louisiana on January 14, 2008. He was elected Governor of Louisiana on October 20, 2007, winning 60 of 64 parishes. He attended Brown University where he graduated with honors in biology and public policy. Following his graduation from Brown he attended Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar.)