Bobby Jindal has about 15 months left as governor of Louisiana. Given his obvious presidential ambitions, it's clear that he'll be paying less and less attention to Louisiana going forward. That being the case, it's not unreasonable to start talking about his legacy.
To hear Team Jindal spin it, he has turned our state from a fetid backwater into a shining beacon of commerce and efficiency. A more objective view would posit that Jindal's legacy is one of corruption, vacillation and missed opportunities.
Consider his four biggest challenges (and opportunities) as governor, two of which came in areas in which he claimed expertise: health care, education, coastal erosion and fiscal management.
• Health and Hospitals — Jindal got his political start as secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) in 1996. As governor, his signature health care initiative was privatizing Louisiana's public hospitals. Last week, the man Jindal hired to implement that initiative — former DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein — was indicted by a state grand jury on nine counts of perjury. All nine counts relate to numerous alleged contacts Greenstein had with his former employer, CNSI, before Team Jindal gave CNSI a $200 million contract to process Medicaid claims. If Greenstein acted with others to rig the selection process — and then cover it up — he has every reason to cooperate with state and federal investigators. At a minimum, Jindal's Big Idea for public health care will go down as an Edwin Edwards-style inside job. That is on top of his refusal to expand Medicaid, which keeps more than 200,000 working poor in Louisiana from getting health care.
• Education — Jindal previously led the University of Louisiana System, but as governor he cut annual state funding for higher education by $700 million. He rammed a massive overhaul of K-12 education through the Legislature, but later most of it was declared unconstitutional. He brought Common Core to Louisiana, then turned against it when it became unpopular among right-wingers. He continues to say, falsely, that Washington forces Common Core on states and that Common Core standards "drive" curriculum.
Jindal will be remembered as the governor who lacked the guts and the integrity to do what's right.
• Coastal Restoration — The state agency responsible for writing a coastal master plan drafted a fine proposal, but no way to fund it. The obvious solution is to press the oil and gas industry, which contributed mightily to wetland loss, to help pay to fix the coast. Instead of leading that effort, Jindal prostituted himself to Big Oil — to the point of replacing qualified experts on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) with toadies who promise to kill the flood agency's environmental lawsuit against Big Oil.
• Fiscal Management — Every year, Jindal has broken his campaign promise not to spend one-time money on recurring expenses. He has raided reserve funds, coastal funds and public employee benefit funds to paper over his deficits. When the BP oil spill money comes down from Washington, Jindal no doubt will try to divert it — then claim he "balanced" the budget.
Ultimately, Bobby Jindal will be remembered as the governor who lacked the guts and the integrity to do what's right. If he's dumb enough to run for president, his opponents will destroy him with one question — a query posed to voters, not to Jindal: Do you want all of America to look like Louisiana?
Correction: In last week's column, I incorrectly stated that Jindal could shorten the next term of SLFPA-E member G. Paul Kemp by refusing to submit Kemp's name to the state Senate for confirmation. Actually, Jindal could shorten Kemp's term by asking the Senate not to confirm him.
Since then, the so-called "independent" nominating committee for SLFPA-E membership "reconsidered" Kemp's nomination. That's yet another sign that Jindal and nominating committee chair Jay Lapeyre will do anything to derail the SLFPA-E lawsuit. Kemp supported the litigation. The glaring irony here is that Lapeyre led the fight after Hurricane Katrina to "reform" the old levee board by claiming the new board should focus on flood protection exclusively. He and Jindal are focused exclusively on the lawsuit. We all are at risk as a result.