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Fifty Shades of Grover

Bye-bye White House in 2016! (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

How does Gov. Bobby Jindal propose closing the Grand Canyon in the Louisiana state budget? Here’s part of his answer:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration moved ahead Tuesday with a plan to sell the state’s remaining share of a massive tobacco settlement, despite criticism the move would waste a valuable asset for a quick fix to budget problems.

A board that oversees the settlement agreed to the idea, though several more approvals would be needed before any sale. Treasurer John Kennedy objected, saying Jindal’s plan is driven by desperation to find money for a budget awash in red ink.

As the Republican governor has stuck to a pledge against raising taxes, Jindal and lawmakers have refused to match the state’s spending to its yearly revenue. They have plugged budget holes with short-term financing like money from property sales, legal settlements and trust funds, creating continued shortfalls year after year.

Kennedy, also a Republican, called the tobacco settlement plan more of the same maneuvering, as the state faces a $1.6 billion budget gap next year.

“This is about the last savings account that we have left that we haven’t taken money from,” Kennedy said of the tobacco settlement. “You never make a financial decision this important when you’re under this much financial pressure.”

Typical Jindal: kick the can down the road with budgetary smoke and mirrors. Columnist Lanny Keller, a reform-minded conservative who writes for the Baton Rouge Advocate, writes today about how poorly Jindal has governed Louisiana, and how just it is that his presidential prospects are therefore in the toilet. Excerpt:

What is most astonishing lately is the speed at which the Bobby Bubble has collapsed, even among erstwhile true-believers. Much of the old reform crowd (present company included) parted company with political and insanely doctrinaire decisions on taxes and spending by the governor a long time ago, even as he romped to re-election in 2011.

Jindal’s financial mismanagement of the state even appears to be hurting Republicans running this fall to replace him. With 70 percent of those polled believing that Louisiana is headed in the wrong direction, a generic Republican is polling uncomfortably close to a generic Democrat in the gubernatorial race. This ought to be a cakewalk for any Republican candidate, especially considering that the Louisiana Democratic Party is a shell of its former self. But Jindal (approval rating: 27 percent) has so screwed up the state that even many GOP voters are wary about more of the same. Scott McKay, a Baton Rouge conservative writer and political observer, writes in AmSpec that the problems Jindal created for himself have destroyed his chances to be president in 2016.

The line on Jindal is that he’s made his budget decisions for years based on pleasing Grover Norquist, the tax macher whose imprimatur is thought necessary for any Republican hoping to be president. Jindal has always seen getting rid of the state’s generous business tax breaks as a “tax increase,” figuring that’s how Grover would see it. Now, though, his budgetary back against the wall, Jindal is pivoting, and calling for a repeal of the state’s inventory tax exemption — a move that has the business community howling. But Grover gives it his blessing, so it’s all good.

In truth, this is actually progress. Whether Jindal is right or wrong to propose ending this particular tax exemption is up for debate. The fact that he is finally moving off his ideological orthodoxy on taxes is progress. But it’s still pretty funny, and not ha-ha funny, that he requires Grover’s blessing.

Last night, looking at the tobacco settlement folly, my TAC colleague Jon Coppage — who today makes fun of Scott Walker’s political cowardice in the Mair Affair — wrote to say:

 Hoo boy. You could almost make a sitcom of him at this point, a political procedural where they have to come up with a new way to not solve Louisiana’s problems each week.

Yes. Call it Fifty Shades of Grover. 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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