Governor Jindal's new commissioner of administration, Paul Rainwater, dropped a bombshell today when he told AP reporter Melinda Deslatte that he's ordering all state departments to plan for a 35% budget cut next year.
Rainwater said he's anticipating a $2 billion drop in revenues. While it may not actually come to that, he said, he wants to be ready if that worst-case scenario plays out.
Not surprisingly, Rainwater is holding fast to Governor Jindal's reckless "no taxes" pledge. Apparently, this administration would rather turn out the lights and lock the doors of state government than jeopardize Jindal's credentials with the conservative budget hawks he's courting on the national political stage.
That the administration would even consider a 35% budget cut is disturbing. But doing so in the full knowledge that there are over 440 tax loopholes out there, and that trimming just some of them could avert disaster, is truly mind boggling.
Note that we're not talking about new taxes here - we're talking about collecting taxes that are on the books but have been exempted by lawmakers.
The only other alternative the governor seems willing to consider is raiding the state's statutorily protected funds. That would require the same two-thirds vote of the legislature as repealing some of the tax exemptions.
Next year's legislative session is shaping up to be perhaps the most painful on record, for the governor, for legislators and, most importantly, for the people of Louisiana.