Friday, March 04, 2016

Year of the shitty governor

Last summer political observers began to hit upon a common trait among several of the many many Republicans running for President.  A lot of them happened to be exceptionally shitty governors each in the process of dismantling his home state where none of them was especially popular.
Previously in American history, eight sitting governors have been elected president—compared to just three sitting senators—so there’s a clear historical reason to look to such candidates as credible top contenders.

But when one looks at the GOP governors this cycle, it’s starting to look more and more like a “most hated governors” club, with men like Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal all polling as losers in their home states—the exact opposite of what governors are supposed to bring to the table as White House candidates.

Not only are they viewed negatively by home-state voters, all would lose their home states to Hillary Clinton in the general. Christie trailed her by 23 percent in New Jersey back in May. Walker trailed her by 12 percent in Wisconsin in April. Even in deep red Louisiana, Clinton lead Jindal 44.5 to 42 percent in a recent poll, just as she had throughout most polls in the 2014 election cycle.
Today, with John Kasich the only shitty governor left sort of standing,  Stephanie Grace closes the political books on the field.
Bottom line: When it comes to what governors are selling, voters aren’t buying.

The rise of storm-the-barricades outsider Donald Trump has dominated the discussion, of course, but the flip side is the fall of all these heavily credentialed elected officials. Turns out voters aren’t so impressed with governing experience, after all.

Could it be because they’re not so impressed with how some of these folks governed?
But while we may not have the shitty governors to kick around anymore, the states they have so shittily governed are still recovering from being kicked around by them and will be for some time.
What makes Louisiana different is what it was doing before the precipitous decline in oil prices.

“They were building this structural imbalance that was getting bigger and bigger each year,” said Moody’s Investors Service analyst Emily Raimes. “When you put on top of that the very sudden and long decline in oil prices, that’s added to the pressure the state has faced. Oil is not the major driver of their economy or their revenues, but the oil price decline has been the icing on the cake.”

Lawmakers must close a $900 million budget shortfall by June 30 and a more than $2 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year starting July 1. Legislators are currently two weeks into a 25-day special session to resolve the budget gap.

The problems began in the years after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The massive amounts of federal, insurance and other aid money that flowed into Louisiana for the rebuilding efforts inflated the state’s tax collections, particularly its sales tax. In response, first-term Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed through tax cuts in 2008 and 2009 when the rest of the country was dealing with massive budget shortfalls due to the national recession.

Eventually, the aid money petered out, and the Great Recession caught up to Louisiana. But Jindal wanted to keep his pledge not to raise taxes and most lawmakers were happy to oblige. The result was a patchwork of budget fixes over the next several years that drew down reserves and other funds to supplement the state’s general fund revenue.
More than merely a "pledge not to raise taxes," Jindal wanted to protect the gifts to cronies and donors he had funded at great state expense to the state since the height of the rebuilding/fracking boom.  As long as the campaign war chest was ready for 2016, it really didn't matter to Jindal if anything was left in the state kitty by the time he was ready to jump ship. 

As it happened, the raft Bobby had built out of our money didn't get him where he wanted to go.  That's sad for him. But it isn't too too sad for him. Bobby landed on a little non-profit island from which he can comfortably send little messages in bottles to major US news publications.

As for us, well, we are less lucky. The Cat 3 storm we were trying to sail around just blew up into a Cat 5.
The remaining shortfall that the Legislature needs to fill by March 9 doubled overnight after a new calculation of tax bills.

What legislators thought was a $67 million gap when they finished work Thursday afternoon became a $147 million deficit last night after the Legislative Fiscal Office decided that a bill advancing state tax payments from retail stores wouldn’t generate $75 million after all by June 30.

“That money disappeared,” state Sen. Eric LaFleur, said Friday morning. LaFleur chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which on Thursday passed its version of the budget bill. “It’s disappointing and frustrating for a lot of people who have made votes with the idea that we were getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. Now the light got a bit dimmer.”
The Year of The Shitty Governor is one for the record books. 

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