The Louisiana voters are angry and Louisiana government managing its budget condition borders on the miserable.
Last week, we interviewed Louisiana pollster Bernie Pinsonat to discuss the upcoming session and related matters. There has been much interest in his comments.
Thus, below is the transcript of the complete telephone interview with Pinsonat. Also, below is the video we create of the telephone recordings:
SABLUDOWSKY:The legislative session coming up, what's your take so far
PINSONAT: well, it could be one of the worst sessions I've ever witnessed, and there's a lot of negativity to say the least surrounding the potential outcome, normally these things go to the last 20 days of the session, maybe 14 days and then there's, the legislators come together and they come up with a plan, they trade and deal, go for this and go for that and then all of a sudden the last 10 days or so, a budget finally emerges and everybody can agree on it and it passes, but this is a little different.
PINSONAT:You've got a lame-duck governor, you've got an enormous deficit of 1.6B and the backdrop is, this isn't the first year, this has been going on for five or six years so the previous cuts make any cut, this 2015 session, have a greater impact than any time with ever seen. I don't know if there's ever been a session like this where with had five or six years of deficits and then we go into the last year, which is the worst year you can pick the when the governor is reaching the lowest point in their popularity, their ability to get things done and you have a $1.6 billion deficit you got the anti-tax moods, you've got the realization of these cuts cannot be avoided , you can only move so much money around, you can only use so many accounting gimmicks and this, this is the backdrop this time, so it's an unusual and unique situation for Louisiana.
PINSONAT:And none of us who have been doing this for a while has ever seen a session approach with so many dark clouds. And I'm sure the public is probably a little immune to this I might add, we've been saying this is horrible, how will Jindal get out of this, how will the legislature, when will the legislature finally break free from Jindal and do their own budget and all of those, all of these discussions which have been--receive a lot coverage for the last four or five years and none of them really materialize, something always came together something was passed and pundits and myself included on particular aspects of the budget--say they did this and they don't like that and they took money from this pot and they moved it over here--but the public, by the way, really, is not really engage to the minute details.
PINSONAT:All they know is that the budget eventually passed, they may have used accounting gimmicks but it wasn't traumatic, horrible cuts to the extent that were facing this year and they weren't asked to pay more taxes, so they listen, they paid a little attention and nothing happened so, this year is another one of those years-- the consequences are far more grave as far as to be concerned. But I'm not so sure that the public believes that it will eventually happen, they've heard it so many times now, they're probably a little immune to it so we'll see if the public picks up on this and how this eventually plays out but it's not a great, the outlook is certainly grim at this point in time
SABLUDOWSKY: There's two things that really strike me. Number one, and I certainly would like to get your take, but number one, we're dealing with a election year, a statewide election year and so a lot of people from legislator to dog catchers to parish presidents--their careers are now on the line-- Lt. Gov., Insurance Commissioner, and so on. In addition, we have a situation where our governor is obviously trying to be president of the United States. So, I mean, those two things, and plus given the incredible budget situation--I've been following this now for a few decades myself and it's never been this bad. So I'm just wondering, given the election, given the governor's desires to be president--I mean, how does that play into all of this?
PINSONAT: Well it's a complicating factor, that's a good point Steve. We'll never had a governor play at the level of national politics that Jindal obviously has. It's hurting, it has hurt him with some, the poll I've done show him about at 50% think he should drop this and 50% think it's okay. It doesn't mean they are cheering for him to be doing it but, but it's okay. But it has hurt his popularity and I think that Jindal's has made a conscious decision that just something, that's a price that I'm just going to have to pay. Whether the skeptic out there--really does he have a chance or--I don't think Jindal pays attention to a lot of that. But it is a backdrop that is complicating the budget solution--his national ambitions in the positions he's taking nationally, obviously affect his role he'll play at the capital. When you're so strict on what revenues and how they'll be interpreted and whatever else and with $1B.6,deficit--how do you expect to raise that kind of money, so. Jindal may come up with a plan, I don't really see going very far, especially since there is opposition, and it's normal opposition, but there's no question that Jindal's playing national politics is complicating the eventual outcome. Now will--you've made a good point, there's also hundred 144 legislators who's up for reelection and a lot of those can be reelected, some are term-limited, but the ones what to be reelected this fall, it is a different time for them. Jindal's gone this time. So they don't have to worry about Jindal. It's their hide that could be skinned if no solutions found. And, you have the backdrop of anti-taxes and you have a conservative state and all of those things play into this and it adds to--which is one of the things reminded me of.
PINSONAT: Besides all of the various problems that cause the backdrop, the backdrop of the session to be complicated, add to that, the reelection of 144 legislators. And the question is--how would we get out of this. I don't know how big of a role Jindal will eventually play. I don't know how many legislators Republicans, or anyone else would really, I do not believe will go over the plank for Jindal. I think that Jindal knows that their on their own and he's on his own. There's a common shared responsibility to get something done and I think that's the glue that will hold it together--will it hold it together throughout the session, that's the $64,000 question? Steve, So, no matter how we look at it though, it is a unique situation as you said--you've been doing this as long as I have and is been, but never have we faced this type of session, with so many complications, with so many negative possibilities, because of the atmosphere, because of the constraint, because of all of the interests in how they look at their future and how they can get us out of this mess
While the news media focuses upon the major Louisiana budget gap of roughly $1.6B, hard decisions need to be made, within a backdrop that voters might not understand the enormity of the budget cuts needed and the changes that need to be made to get through the upcoming legislative session.
SABLUDOWSKY: So I need to, sort of, punctuate that if I might and that is, I read yesterday, that LSU had done a survey and apparently the state, the voters are, they don't want to get rid of some of these business tax credits and, roughly, what--500 million dollars of Jindal's plan, is to, I guess, remove the inventory tax credit refund-so, I'm just wondering, how in the world are we going to get out of this mess because if the state doesn't want to fool around with those tax credits or any of the business tax credits, then how do we going to go forward?
PINSONAT: I don't care what the survey says, I don't think they legislature is going to be influenced. And I think you could have worded the questions a little differently--movie tax credit, solar, inventory-- all that stuff, maybe there is a better way to ask it--based upon reality and the background based upon what the choices are verses that. And, whether it's movie tax credit, solar or inventory, fees or whatever else you want to see LSU lose--not have a (inaudible) school, do you want to see, a couple hundred thousand, I mean do you want to see seven or 8000 city employees furloughed, do you want see drivers license--so that's a poll done and in and of its own and I wouldn't pay attention to it if I were a legislator, that's one of those where the questions asked without the backdrop of reality, I'm not so sure it reflects... Look everybody wants everybody to have something but at some point in time somebody has to pay something and I keep using the term cobbled together. I don't think there is a choice, but, if you go to let out one group and tax another, it's just common sense and political sense, the bottom line in this whole process is, and I think you're going to see-- that's what the legislative leadership is looking at and that's where they're going to go
PINSONAT: Everybody has to pay something to get out of this mess, everybody is going to have to sacrifice something in it can't be where one industry pays the major share of it, it's just not fair..they did not cause this problem and you go after them and you punish them and everybody else. Everybody who's getting something from government, maybe, will probably call on to give up something--if you want to continue state services, they'll have to raise fees. Jindal might not like any of that but the question--is the legislature allow state services to be cut dramatically, will state employees be--I guess you'd say furloughed. Can't even have a national election--those are pretty serious consequences. And that's probably just the tip of the iceberg. And the public may not be paying attention to it, as I've said, the backdrop of the poll is that most of the stuff we continue to talk about, the public says "well,this always occurs". Nothing bad really happens..Well it hasn't really sunk in yet
PINSONAT: The legislature knows, they can't wait for the public to sink in, they might not even believe that this will ever happen but the legislature has a greater responsibility and they don't have any choice. They going to have to cobble together something, that got to find a way, I guess you say, and get this budget to the next governor, in some kind of shape where he, whoever is the eventual governor is, will have an opportunity to restructure the spending priorities in the state, take a look at all the revenue measures, take a look at the exemptions and come up with a new source for more balanced approach to revenue. Everything has to be on the table in this session and, to get us to the next governor some plan in February 2016 where the next governor can tackle the entire problem and restructure our, the income that the state receives, but it's probably going to look a lot like what they do in the session. And he'll expand on it and come up with a more permanent plan where we just can't keep going through this crazy outlook where every year we may be shutting down this university, this hospital, and all the consequences and it's not something that we're talking about, the public is not aware as to how much we've cut and really what kind of deficits we have standing and facing the next governor, so they don't pay-- what I'm telling you is, really the public doesn't pay attention to a lot of the stuff and they don't realize how much the budget has actually been cut and what are the consequences if we worked on a real cash basis and had to pay all the money back there we moved around--so the consequences are there and I'm not really worried about that poll, the bottom line is the legislature has a larger responsibility where they've got to find a real solution and tax credits is one of the solutions for any and everybody who's got them
SABLUDOWSKY: I think that the parents, the public certainly cares about tuition for their kids, I think they care about the coastline, and taking money from the coastline to pay for education, healthcare. They care about their hospitals being open or closed, they care about jobs in New Orleans with the University Hospital not opening, they care about the film industry going in a different direction, I think that each one of us care, about, at least something and I think it is you're pointing out, something is going to be taken away from everybody in order to make this work. That is shared sacrifice in some way.
PINSONAT: Somebody, the legislature, the media, you and myself and every body else is going to have to stand up and say there's got to be shared responsibility, we can't get out of this, this hole, this time, it's so deep that with got to find some revenue and the approaches got to be everybody has got to share in the pain and suffering. You can't go to any one industry, or group or somebody who has sheltered in their income from the state collecting it, you can't do one or two of these areas, it's got to be a shared approach.
SABLUDOWSKY: The problem is, the problem is that we don't have the leader-- the leader is up in the Fox News studio or elsewhere; we'll have to see. There needs to be a leader to make that argument. We don't have it and we'll see what emerges.
PINSONAT: Well, it would be nice but I don't think whether he is or he isn't is nice but it doesn't matter right now. Whether it's Jindal or the committee chairmanships, the house, the Senate President or the speaker of the house--somebody has got to do it. Whether Jindal leaves a vacuum and Jindal's popularity in Louisiana, of course, is not strong, I don't think his popularity is strong enough to get a lot done. He can get a lot done with the legislature if he decides to be an active player but some of it is in conflict with his national agenda and that's the problem. But I don't think that legislators that I'm talking to are worried about Jindal. They have a job to do, they've got to get reelected, they're responsible for state government, they're responsible for the state employees and their responsible for those universities to remain open--so.
PINSONAT: Let me tell you what they can't do. The can't say "Well, I'm going to do nothing because we don't have a governor".
SABLUDOWSKY: Of course not. My point is that if you are shared shared sacrifice something I don't think Louisiana voters really care that much about because it means taxes, it means raise revenues and you need a leader out there being a proponent of that, and if you don't have a leader being a proponent, yea, you have, you have a lot fragmented conversations and promotions. So, that's really the point that I'm making
PINSONAT: Yeah, it's a valid point and if Jindal is perceived not to be included, if Jindal is not involved, or if Jindal can't help, it certainly has the potential to impact his legacy, and if it's bad enough down here, I don't think, and I've always said, I don't think that Jindal can afford to let the system crash and have any kind of, the repercussions nationally will certainly impact him. Look, he's running for president, and he doesn't want things to crash and burn in Lo0uisiana, that's not how you run for president, be involved in the presidential campaign on the Republican primaries. You cannot let that happen if you're Jindal. Then you have your legislative leadership, So Jindal does't have a choice but to be part of this process. If he wasn't running for president, and he was tired of politics and he was getting out, that would be one thing. But he is running for president. He has to avoid a disaster back home, because, I don't see, it certainly would damage his national image and make it--the question will be--if it's that bad in Louisiana, why are you running for president because--there would be charges that he mismanaged the state and all of those negative things. So Jindal doesn't have a lot of choice in this. He's got to hope, he's got be involved, to make sure that something does happen and he's got to be involved in it or I don't see how it doesn't damage his national ambitions
SABLUDOWSKY: Well we shall see, we shall see. okay Bernie, Bernie Pinsonat, thank you so much