This is a story about the $1.6 billion hole in Louisiana’s budget. This is also a story about how Louisiana is so poor that — despite his White House ambitions — Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) didn’t budget anything for presidential primaries in 2016. Last year, Jindal even signed a law to move up the primaries by two weeks to attract more national attention to Louisiana. But the money for those elections was nowhere to be found in the governor’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, as legislators discovered Wednesday. “I have no funding for elections past the fall elections,” Secretary of State Tom Schedler said during a review of the governor’s budget before the state House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. Whose oversight was this? It’s something of a mystery how this item, which everybody agrees is vital, got left out.
The commissioner of administration, Kristy Nichols, is responsible for Jindal’s budget. Each year, her staff meets with state agencies to decide on the funding levels that the governor will recommend. The secretary of state (who is elected separately) said he left his final budget meeting with Jindal’s people believing that he would have the $3.5 million needed to pay for primary elections in March.
Then the budget document came out in February. It took a couple of days before the secretary of state realized that he didn’t get enough to pay for any elections past the end of 2015.
“Our analysts came in and told us, ‘Wait a minute, this wasn’t funded,’” said Meg Casper, Schedler’s spokeswoman. According to Casper, Schedler’s office then contacted the Jindal administration, which confirmed that there would not be money for the presidential primaries.