FINAL DAYS. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal stands with an oiled
Brown Pelican on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the
Louisiana coast, in this June 3, 2010 file photo. Jindal is
finishing his final days as Louisiana’s governor. (AP
Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #1 (January 4, 2016), page 8.
Jindal ending eight-year tenure with low support, but
By Melinda Deslatte
The Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. — The glimmer on Bobby Jindal has faded for most
voters as he wraps up his final days as Louisiana’s governor. While the
governor has been travelling the state to shine up his eight-year
legacy, his tenure appears tarnished by red ink.
The one-time rising Republican star has seen his approval ratings
tank, his presidential bid end, and his performance as governor marred
by financial decisions that left the state careening from one budget
crisis to the next.
Barry Erwin, president of the nonpartisan Council For A Better
Louisiana, described Jindal’s time in office as "opportunities lost."
"People had huge expectations, perhaps unrealistic expectations. But
I think there’s a sense, really and truly, that we’re emerging in really
difficult shape," Erwin said. "I think the accomplishments probably will
get overshadowed by the wreck that the budget is in."
As his time in office nears its January 11 end, Jindal, 44, gives no
hint of regret, not an inch of second-guessing his choices.
"I’ve worked as hard as I could for Louisiana," the term-limited
governor said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Every single
day I did what I thought was right, and I’m comfortable with the
decisions I made."
The Ivy League-educated son of Indian immigrants, Jindal made history
when he took office in 2008. He was the nation’s first elected
Indian-American governor and Louisiana’s first nonwhite governor since
He took over a state battered by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, after
Democrat Kathleen Blanco — who had defeated Jindal four years earlier —
chose not to run for a second term. Expectations for Jindal soared after
his decisive win and a campaign built on reform.
But many now see Jindal as a disappointment. The governor’s approval
ratings have fallen to 30 percent or less in recent polls.
"When I talked to people, they saw a guy who seemed to be a whole lot
more interested in his personal ambitions than he was in them. And I
think that’s how he’s going to be remembered," said term-limited state
senator Robert Adley (R-Benton).
"Certainly he has accomplishments. But anytime the public thinks you
put yourself above them, everything else goes away," Adley said.
Jindal counts among his biggest achievements the privatization of the
LSU charity hospital system; the expansion of charter schools and
vouchers; and $62 billion in economic development wins estimated to
create tens of thousands of new jobs.
Immediately after taking office, the governor worked to improve the
state’s image with an overhaul of ethics laws. He cut business taxes and
revamped worker training programs, and he poured millions into direct
incentives to draw companies to Louisiana.
"He’s one of the best governors arguably the state’s ever had as far
as economic development," said lumber company owner Roy O. Martin, a
Jindal donor and one of the governor’s appointees to the Board of
Jindal describes his key initiatives in ethics, education, and
economic development as aimed at keeping Louisiana’s children from
having to leave the state to pursue their dreams.
"Eight years ago, the challenge was we were losing our sons and
daughters. Now, one of our big challenges is we’ve got to train enough
people to fill these skilled jobs," Jindal said.
But the achievements have been drowned out by constant budget
When he took office, Jindal inherited a more than $1 billion state
surplus. Then, a national recession, Jindal’s backing of the largest
individual income-tax cut in state history, and the ballooning costs of
tax breaks siphoned money from the treasury. Plummeting oil and gas
prices worsened the hit.
Backed by lawmakers, the governor stripped $700 million in state
financing from higher education and chipped away at funding for programs
across state government. But he refused to support anything he
considered a tax increase and used patchwork maneuvers to pay for
Jindal defends his management of the state’s finances, saying the
state received credit upgrades on his watch. He said he decided to grow
the private sector economy rather than the government and counts as an
achievement the reduction of more than 30,000 state workers.
"I think the approach we took was absolutely right," Jindal said. "We
held the line on taxes. We were willing to cut government."
Jindal disagrees with suggestions that budget cuts — or his
presidential ambitions — took a toll on his approval ratings with
voters, insisting the nosedive is tied to a 2012 education revamp that
rankled teacher unions and public school leaders.
But Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat, who has tracked the
governor’s approval ratings, disagrees that education was Jindal’s weak
spot with voters.
People "didn’t think that their governor should not be in the state
when we can’t afford to fund education and healthcare properly, and it
really turned voters off," he said. "The more he travelled, the more he
campaigned out of state, the more his popularity fell."
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