Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has spent much of his final year in office outside of Louisiana, with frequent trips to Washington, D.C. and the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — trips funded by the disgruntled taxpayers of his state. On Wednesday, he confirms the ill-kept secret that he is joining the growing pack seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
Since Gov. Jindal took office in 2008, Louisiana has earned some dubious honors. The state has the largest gender pay gap in the country, with women making 66 cents for every dollar a man earns.
A study by the Violence Policy Center published in late January found the state also has the second-highest rate of gun deaths in the nation, and the state’s rate of incarceration currently leads the U.S. — and thus, the world. Nearly two-thirds of Louisiana’s prisoners are doing time for a drug crime or other non-violent offense. Last year, Jindal vetoed a bipartisan measure that would have made more inmates eligible for parole and redirected the money saved from their early release to fund rehabilitation programs. Jindal called the bill “a step too far that could put our citizens at risk.”
As Jindal’s administration slashed millions from the budget for STD prevention, and prevented new Planned Parenthood clinics from opening, Louisiana developed the second-highest rate of gonorrhea in the country, the third-highest rate of syphilis, and the fourth-highest rate of chlamydia. New Orleans also has the second-highest number of estimated HIV cases in the country, and the highest rate of death after HIV infection. The state has the fifth-highest rate of teen pregnancy.
Additionally, though 16.6 percent of Louisiana residents lack health insurance, one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the country, Jindal refused the federally funded expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and declined to set up a state-based health exchange. If the Supreme Court rules over the next few weeks against Obamacare’s federal subsidies, as many as 250,000 Louisianans could lose their coverage.
Over Jindal’s time in the governor’s mansion, the state’s higher education system has also taken a major hit, with more money cut per student than almost any other state in the country. In the 2015 budget, facing a $1.6 billion dollar shortfall, Jindal proposed even deeper cuts to Louisiana State University that threatened to eliminate entire programs and campuses. Using some bizarre accounting gimmicks involving fees and tax credits that canceled each other out, the Jindal was able to temporarily avoid the devastating education cuts, but whoever takes over the governor’s mansion in January will have to sort out the long-term deficit.
At the same time, the governor has given more than a billion dollars each year in tax breaks to wealthy corporations in the film, retail, and fracking industries.
With school budget woes ongoing, professors at LSU blasted Jindal for hosting a religious rally at the school’s flagship campus. The rally, called “The Response,” was bankrolled by the American Family Association, a designated hate group that has said, among other things, that the spread of marriage equality and abortion rights is responsible for natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
Though Jindal is Catholic, the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops did not participate in his day of prayer.
As the long primary season kicks off, Governor Jindal’s record could become a problem for the Republican Party’s stated goals developed after losing the 2012 election — namely, winning over more voters of color, LGBT people, and women.
Though the election is still more than a year away, a survey of Republican voters found more voters would prefer Jindal not run (20 percent) than favor his candidacy (14 percent).