Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jindal dithers, but stimulus could save higher education

Gov. Bobby Jindal plays Hamlet, wondering whether 'tis nobler to accept nearly $4 billion in stimulus dollars or satisfy his presidential cravings - and those of his party - by rejecting a plan that could mean 50,000 jobs for the state.

Meanwhile, as Times-Picayune reporter Jan Moller notes in this story, the economic recovery package includes $584 million for a "state fiscal stabilization fund," the bulk of which must be spent on education.

That money cannot supplement K-12 education's Minimum Foundation Program because the constitutionally protected fund is already considered stable. It can, however, be spent on colleges and universities.

Since the governor has said he may have to cut higher education spending by between $212 million and $384 million, the stimulus package ought to be considered very good news for our colleges and universities.

But the Republican party is playing the hardest of ball with the recovery package, even to the point of endangering the seat of one of their newest members of Congress. GOP leaders demanded that Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao of New Orleans vote against the act, even though it is wildly popular in his district. As New Orleans CityBusiness editor Greg LaRose reports, a recall petition has already been launched.

And since Jindal is slated to give the GOP response to President Obama's address on Tuesday, it appears that political maneuvering could have a lot to do with his dithering about accepting the recovery act dollars.

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