Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal defended his state's budget and economic situation during Wednesday's "undercard" Republican presidential debate. He told the CNBC moderators that he cut Louisiana's budget 26 percent, eliminated 30,000 government employees and made it one of the top states for private-sector job growth. It's not a new refrain: Jindal has increasingly referenced his handling of the budget on the campaign trail.
"We've reduced the size of government. That's exactly what we need to do in D.C. In D.C., the Republicans slow the growth rate, they claim victory -- that's not enough," Jindal said Wednesday, according to TalkingPointsMemo.
When Jindal took office in 2008, he started with a $900 million surplus. His 2009 budget proposal put expenditures at $34.33 billion, and his budget this year was about $25.1 billion -- a roughly 27 percent reduction, according to factcheck.org. So his claims at the debate were technically true.
But they're also controversial. Factcheck.org noted that federal funding played a critical role. In 2009, Louisiana was coming off of Hurricane Katrina and had received about $19.8 billion in federal aid. By 2015, this had dropped by about $10 billion. The Times-Picayune reported that Jindal's boast of the 30,000 jobs cut stems largely from the privatization of the state charity hospital system.
This year, Louisiana was facing a projected $1.6 billion shortfall, but Jindal had pledged not to raise taxes. He blamed a drop in oil prices and handled it with a series of short-term fixes, Slate reported, and later made executive agencies pause any spending and hiring considered nonessential. Over the past few years he's cut higher-education spending and slashed the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly, while protecting certain industries. Today Louisiana's unemployment rate is about 6.6 percent.
The Associated Press reported that the next governor will likely have to "repay a string of debts and IOUs." According to gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne: "Our budget has been full of sleights of hand -- it's almost a Ponzi scheme of moving moneys around, one-time money around, to serve recurring needs," the AP reported. Jindal's approval rating was about 32 percent midyear.
Twitter users noted this Wednesday night:
Jindal doubling down on being conservative's conservative, but still not answering Q on Louisiana economy problems. #gopdebate
— John Wildermuth (@jfwildermuth) October 28, 2015
Bobby Jindal's economic problems in LA are due to his bandaid patchwork approach for short term, not longterm economy #CNBCGOPDebate
— Shirley Widlacki (@patriotmom61) October 28, 2015
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) October 28, 2015
Heading into Wednesday's debate, the survey aggregator HuffPost Pollster had Jindal in roughly 12th place among the 15 GOP candidates. He had the support of 0.8 percent of Republican primary voters, just behind South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and about even with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Real estate mogul Donald Trump led the pack with 32.5 percent support, followed by neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Jindal joined Santorum, Graham and former New York Gov. Jim Pataki in the "happy hour" debate at 6 p.m. EDT in Boulder, Colorado. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore's poll numbers weren't high enough for him to be invited.
Jindal had threatened to skip Wednesday's events if he wasn't allowed to participate in the main-stage debate at 8 p.m. EDT. He complained to the Republican National Committee after CNBC shortened the show to two hours at Trump's and Carson's request. Jindal argued that the network should switch up its criteria to include poll data from the early-voting states of New Hampshire and Iowa, where he's enjoyed up to 6 percent support, the Advocate reported.
"The biggest disappointment is that the RNC and network have outsourced their power to Donald Trump, who believes in national healthcare and that George W. Bush is responsible for 9/11," Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for Jindal's camp, told the Washington Examiner. "They completely caved to his demands."
Jindal ultimately decided to participate, and NPR wrote that his goal -- like those of the others at the "kiddie table" -- was to "just try to have a knockout moment that could give them any buzz that could somehow help them into the main debate next month."