Louisiana remains on shaky ground

Gov. Bobby Jindal has been busy at his writing desk, it seems.

Five days after Jindal submitted his administration’s proposed state government budget for fiscal year 2010-11, The Associated Press carried news that the governor has an autobiography coming out soon.

The two works have things in common. We all have reason to hope that both of them belong in the nonfiction section. And both book and budget have a lot to do with presidential politics.

The book will be called On Solid Ground, even though, despite Jindal’s considerable talent and efforts, Louisiana isn’t – not yet. But projecting the idea that he already has straightened out our troubled state is the sort of thing a presidential candidate would do. After all, Sarah and Mitt wrote books, too.

Then again, maybe the governor is serious about running for re-election next year. Just keeping the presidential talk alive gives him more media visibility, more fundraising power and more prestige when dealing with officials in and out of Louisiana.

Maybe that’s one chapter that hasn’t been written yet.

It’ll be interesting to see what the book says about President Barack Obama and the federal stimulus spending.

Jindal, like other Republicans, has criticized the Obama approach to economic stimulus. Unlike some of his GOP colleagues, Jindal has accepted the money when he didn’t have practical, rather than purely ideological, objections.

The first thing we notice about the proposed 2011 budget is that some of the pages are missing. Jindal is proposing that the Legislature spend $24.2 billion. The 2010 budget was $29 billion.

Some of the $5 billion reduction happened when $3 billion in one-time federal aid for Katrina and Rita recovery was factored out. About $1 billion in stimulus money softened the blow, according to The Associated Press.

Even so, 1,000 state workers will lose their jobs outright, and another 2,000 positions will go dark. Higher education escaped without deep cuts this time, but health care, including Medicaid, didn’t. Faced with depressed state revenue and federal demands for a bigger state share in Medicaid financing, Jindal has proposed carving $300 million out of the program’s $6 billion budget.

And now we’re back to presidential politics again. There are at least three federal health-care reform plans floating around Washington – Senate, House and Republican. On top of all that, Jindal’s administration has proposed to expand Medicaid coverage while offering each recipient a choice of three plans operated by private insurers under contract with the state.

Nobody seems to be doing anything with any of them. Until they do, until they figure out a way to make care cheaper and more effective, health care in Louisiana will never be on solid ground.

– The Daily World, Opelousas, La.