This thread is for articles of interest at the State level:
BATON ROUGE, La. — In a short address Monday on the first day of the legislative session, Gov. Bobby Jindal described why his next big plan — a plan that had been applauded by conservative pundits nationally, pitched at meetings around the state and promoted in slickly produced commercials — was crucial to Louisiana’s success.
Then he announced he was shelving it.
“Governor, you’re moving too fast, and we aren’t sure that your plan is the best way to do it,” Mr. Jindal said, describing what he had heard from legislators and citizens alike.
“Here is my response,” he said. “O.K., I hear you.”
The plan, to get rid of the state income and corporate taxes and replace the lost revenue with higher and broader sales taxes, was not dropped altogether. Mr. Jindal emphasized that he was still committed to losing the income tax, but that he would defer to the Legislature to suggest how exactly to make that work.
But it was a rare admission of defeat for Mr. Jindal, 41, a constant Republican in the mix for 2016 and rising conservative luminary since his early 20s. And it was only the latest in a season of setbacks.
In the fall, Mr. Jindal was tapped to lead the Republican Governors Association and after the 2012 election appeared often on national op-ed pages and at Washington forums, diagnosing the party’s ills and earning a reputation as a politician who could deliver straight talk.
Back home in Louisiana his troubles were piling up. Unfavorable polls, once discounted as the byproduct of an ambitious agenda, were only getting worse — recently much worse.
The governor’s statewide school voucher program, a pillar of his education reform package, was blocked by a trial court judge on constitutional grounds.
Judges have since also blocked his revamp of teacher tenure rules and a change of the state retirement system (the administration has appealed the rulings and is pushing for legislative action should they stand).
Then at the end of March, Mr. Jindal’s health secretary, Bruce Greenstein, announced his resignation amid reports of a federal grand jury investigation into the awarding of a $185 million state contract. Mr. Greenstein had also been the point man for one of the administration’s most complex, consequential and potentially risky projects: the accelerated transfer of the state’s safety-net hospital system to a system of public-private partnerships.
All along, opposition to the tax swap was growing broader and more bipartisan by the day. Clergy members urged the governor to drop the plan, saying it could hurt the poor, while the state’s most prominent chamber of commerce group came out against the plan for its potential impact on businesses.
With the math behind the tax swap remaining vague and variable, the plan’s few outspoken friends in the Legislature began to wobble.
Most legislators said on Monday that the governor had made the politically wise decision to stop championing something that had such unfavorable prospects, and some even expressed admiration.
“It’s a monumental thing for any politician to realize that what they’re trying to promote the public isn’t behind yet,” said John Alario, a Republican and the president of the State Senate.
But it sets up a legislative session no less contentious. Democrats immediately criticized Mr. Jindal for remaining committed to the elimination of the income tax while dropping the more politically difficult insistence that any tax plan be revenue neutral.
On the right, where Mr. Jindal has been facing some of his most vociferous opposition, a group of budget-minded Republican lawmakers who call themselves the fiscal hawks seemed far from satisfied as well.
“It doesn’t bode well for a governor’s leadership skills just to, in essence, kind of throw his hands up and say, ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with it but if it passes I’ll take credit for it,’ ” said Representative Cameron Henry, a member of the hawks, who has become so dissatisfied with the governor’s fiscal management that he and a colleague have sued to have Mr. Jindal’s most recent two budgets declared unconstitutional.
It is in fact the state budget, more than any reform plans, that accounts for the governor’s slide in the polls. In particular, surveys show a growing frustration with the annual deep cuts to higher education and health care, partly because of a reduction in federal Medicaid rates but also of Mr. Jindal’s fiscal policies.
Mr. Jindal says that these policies have made Louisiana more business friendly, and indeed the state has weathered the recession better than many others; there are regular announcements by major companies moving plants or offices into Louisiana, often taking advantage of generous tax incentives. The unemployment rate is a full two percentage points below the national average of 7.6 percent.
“There are only a handful of states that have more jobs now that than they did when the recession started and Louisiana’s one of them,” said Timmy Teepell, a political consultant and Mr. Jindal’s former chief of staff.
But in a state that is still poor, routine deep budget cuts — made even deeper after routine midyear revenue shortfalls — are hard to counter with a message of growth, said Bernie Pinsonat, whose polling firm, Southern Media & Opinion Research, released a survey last week showing Mr. Jindal’s approval rating below even that of President Obama’s within the state.
Mr. Pinsonat said that the governor’s upbeat message is further compromised when it is delivered, as it frequently has been, to audiences outside of Louisiana. “It is very difficult to play national politics and come back home and not suffer,” Mr. Pinsonat said, adding: “They see his reforms as not as helping Louisiana but putting another trophy on his mantel.”
Supporters of Mr. Jindal strongly take issue with this perception, saying that Mr. Jindal has long been an advocate of these reforms. Mr. Teepell suggested that the governor’s current political difficulties are in fact a testament to his seriousness about improvements.
“You go through temporary rough patches,” Mr. Teepell said. “But that’s not going to slow him down.”