Meet the Press   |  September 15, 2014

Jindal on rejecting stimulus money

Feb. 22: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal explains to NBC’s David Gregory why he would turn down a portion of the money from President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

But first, the Republican governor of Louisiana , Bobby Jindal .

Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS .

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA): Good morning.

MR. GREGORY: You have a budget shortfall in Louisiana of $2 billion. Now, under the stimulus plan by the Obama administration, you would get a cut of that. You'd get $4 billion in federal stimulus . But this is what you said on Monday about the stimulus plan:"We're going to

have to review each program, each new dollar to make sure that we understand what are the conditions, what are the strings and see whether it's beneficial for Louisiana to use those dollars ." And just Friday you made good on that pledge not necessarily to take the federal money , saying that you would reject almost $100 million in federal unemployment assistance. Why would you turn this money down?

GOV. JINDAL: Well, let's be clear. The best thing that Washington could do to help Louisiana and all of our states with our budgets is to get this economy moving again. I think we just have a fundamental disagreement here. I don't think the best way to do that is for the government to tax and borrow more money . I think the best thing they could've done, for example, was to cut taxes on things like capital gains , the lower tax brackets, to get the private sector spending again. I think they had a provision the net operating losses to help small businesses . Unfortunately, they slimmed that down. They could've done some things on a real energy policy . If all they do is borrow federal money and give it to the states, all we're really doing is delaying the inevitable. We're eventually going to have to make these hard choices anyway. In Louisiana we made midyear reductions, $241 million. We're going to have to do more with less. What would be more helpful from Washington is less unnecessary spending. How does $300 million for federal cars, $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts , how is spending like that going to help our economy ? How's that stimulus ?

MR. GREGORY: All right, but let's focus on -- because I want to get to some of those larger issues in just a moment. But let's focus on this. Why would you turn down $100 million for federal unemployment assistance for your state ?

GOV. JINDAL: Well, let's look at the programs we turned down.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

GOV. JINDAL: You're talking about temporary federal money that would require a permanent change in state law .

MR. GREGORY: But it is -- it's a tax break .

GOV. JINDAL: Well, it, it's -- no. The $100 million we turned down was temporary federal dollars that would require us to change our unemployment laws. That would've actually raised taxes on Louisiana businesses. We as a state would've been responsible for paying for those benefits after the federal money disappeared.

MR. GREGORY: All right, but the Democratic senator from Louisiana , Mary Landrieu , says you're wrong. This is how it was reported in The Times-Picayune Saturday:"Senator Landrieu disputed the governor's interpretation and said the new unemployment benefits are designed to be temporary. `The bill is an emergency measure designed to provide extra help during these extraordinarily tough times,' Landrieu said. `To characterize this provision as a "tax increase on Louisiana businesses" is inaccurate.'" Her point being, you could insert a sunset clause when this has to go away, but it would certainly be beneficial at a time when you're in economic stress.

GOV. JINDAL: That's great, except the federal law , if you actually read the bill -- and I know it was 1,000 pages, and I know they got it, you know, at midnight, or hours before they voted on it-

-if you actually read the bill, there's one problem with that. The word permanent is in the bill. It requires the state to make a permanent change in our law. Law B -- our employer group agrees with me. They say, "Yes, this will result an increase in taxes on our businesses, this will result in a permanent obligation on the state of Louisiana ." It would be like spending $1 to get a dime. Why would we take temporary federal dollars if we're going to end up having a permanent program?

And here's the problem. So many of these things that are called temporary programs end up being permanent government programs. But this one's crystal clear , black and white letter law. The federal stimulus bill says it has to be a permanent change in state law if you take this state money . And so within three years the federal money 's gone, we've got now a permanent change in our laws, we have to pay for it , our businesses pay for it . I don't think it makes sense to be raising taxes on Louisiana businesses during these economically challenging times . And what it shows is what we're going to do in the stimulus is we're going to look at every program, every dollar. If it makes sense for Louisiana , makes sense for our taxpayers, we'll use those programs and dollars . If it doesn't, like on Friday we said, "This doesn't make sense for us. This is not a good deal for us." It makes -- my job is to represent Louisiana 's taxpayers. Makes no sense for us to take temporary federal dollars and create permanent state obligations.

MR. GREGORY: Are there other parts of this stimulus money that would go to Louisiana that you will reject?

GOV. JINDAL: Well, we're going to continue to do our process. On Friday we said, for example, we are going to take -- we are going to recommend the legislature that we take the road money . These are dollars the federal government was going to spend on roads anyway. In my view they're going to spend it a little more quickly than they would have otherwise. Louisiana 's still a donor state . We pay more in federal gasoline taxes than we get back. So on the same day we said we're not taking the $100 million in the unemployment, we said we will take the road money . We're going to look at every provision, see what's good for the state , see what's not, see what strings are attached. But the reality is the bigger philosophical point is this, I just have a fundamental disagreement with this package. When it was originally proposed, it was talked about as -- the president originally talked about tax -- targeted tax cuts ...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

GOV. JINDAL: ...as well as infrastructure investment.

MR. GREGORY: But a third of this package is made up of tax cuts .

GOV. JINDAL: Well, but you look at the provisions that would get our economy moving -- for example, they -- both the House and the Senate had more generous versions for the small businesses , the net operating losses, the carryforwards. They get into conference and it ends up smaller than where both houses started.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. JINDAL: Other spending started out, like the, the magnetic-lev train subsidy started out smaller and ended up larger than what both chambers passed in conference, $8 billion. You

know, now they're talking about spending billions of that to build a train from Disneyland to Las Vegas . There was so much wasteful spending here. I think the president had a chance, if he had worked with the Republicans -- instead of allowing Speaker Pelosi to write this bill, if he had worked with the Republicans to say, "Let's really invest in infrastructure, let's do targeted temporary spending, let's do some tax cuts , let's get the economy moving." I don't think we're going to solve our economic challenges through government spending .

MR. GREGORY: But Democrats would, would argue, with regard to a call for greater tax cuts , that over the course of the Bush presidency you only had a -- three million new jobs through aggressive tax cutting, that the change in median income did not appreciably go up at all. And yet there is this emphasis on tax cuts as the best way to cure what ails the economy .

GOV. JINDAL: Well, I think there's just a -- I think this is -- shows the fundamental disagreement...

MR. GREGORY: Is that wrong? Is that -- are those facts wrong?

GOV. JINDAL: Well, I -- a couple of things about those facts. You look in our country's history, when President Kennedy , when President Reagan and, yes, when President Bush cut taxes, you know what, they created jobs for our country. It caused some of the best economic times and prosperity for our country. But I think it goes to the fundamental difference about our approaches to this stimulus bill. On one hand, you have this idea that the way we're going to solve this -- and you heard even the president say that government may be, at one point -- I'll paraphrase -- may be the only entity that can help us solve this. You've got another view that says this is all -- this spending is temporary, it's creating debt my children, my grandchildren are going to have to pay.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

GOV. JINDAL: What I think is the only way we grow this economy is to get the private sector hiring again, expanding, creating jobs. It's the only way you're going to solve the foreclosure crisis, the only way you're going to have the credit freeze resolved is by the private sector expanding.

MR. GREGORY: All right, but wait a minute. But let me just stop you on that point...

GOV. JINDAL: We can't quit.

MR. GREGORY: ...Governor, because this is a really important point.

GOV. JINDAL: Well, well, all right, but one, one last point.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

GOV. JINDAL: We can't print enough money to move this economy . Let's be clear. This isn't free money ...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

GOV. JINDAL: ...just because they spent nearly $1 trillion. That's debt that will cause inflation and interest rates .

MR. GREGORY: But you would concede that most economists are worried about deflation right now, not inflation.

GOV. JINDAL: Sure. But if you look at CBO , even, even the...

MR. GREGORY: Congressional Budget Office.

GOV. JINDAL: Even the congressional's own budget office said that this stimulus will actually has the potential of reducing GDP growth because of inflation.

MR. GREGORY: But let me ask you this as a philosophical point. We are in the midst of an unprecedented global process of de-leveraging, which means people are not spending money , they are paying down debt, they are saving money . Businesses are not expanding, they are contracting. So why is it wrong for government to try to, try to create demand for goods and services in the economy when the private sector is too weak?

GOV. JINDAL: Well, I think -- again, I think you could have had a bipartisan stimulus package that it was truly what the president outlined: targeted, temporary. If he had come and said, "Here's infrastructure that is real infrastructure, that really will grow our economy ," investing in ports and roads can help grow our economy , "Combined with tax cuts that help small businesses and others to employ and stay in business"...

MR. GREGORY: But you don't dispute that federal stimulus money is necessary when the economy is not being stimulated through the private sector .

GOV. JINDAL: I think if it's targeted, temporary and there is a real commitment that this is not creating permanent new government programs, not adding to the deficit, that we understand what temporary means. There's a commitment that we reduce spending. Now we hear tomorrow the president's going to be talking about reducing the debt and the deficit.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

GOV. JINDAL: You know, it's great that, that we're going to close the barn door after the horse is gone, but there has to be real attention -- when you look at the spending that was in this stimulus , I think a lot of people are skeptical. A lot of economists, by the way, are skeptical...

MR. GREGORY: Right. By the way, Governor...

GOV. JINDAL: ...this will grow our economy .

MR. GREGORY: There is a lot of Republicans who complain about the deficit now, didn't have a problem with deficit spending when it came to funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq . And you've had among those -- among the likes of Warren Buffett who said, "This is like Pearl Harbor for our economy ."

GOV. JINDAL: Well...

MR. GREGORY: Isn't it worth the deficit spending ?

GOV. JINDAL: Well, a couple of things. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty when it comes to spending. Make no mistake about it, Republicans defended incredible growth in spending that we shouldn't have these last several years. This is an order of magnitude different. Let's be clear, because sometimes it's hard to get our minds around these numbers. When people are talking about trillions of dollars , when you're talking about permanent deficits as far as people are predicting out...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. JINDAL: ...when you're talking about the effect this'll have on our currency, on interest rates , when you're talking about China being our largest foreign holder of U.S. debt , we're talking about real changes in our economy . That's not free. You've seen the comparisons that this is more than we spent -- this one bill was the largest spending bill that Congress has passed; more than we spent in, in Vietnam , more than -- and you can look -- more than the Louisiana Purchase .

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. JINDAL: To, to use a, a local, a, a relevant example. But the point is this. It was rushed through the process. There were many -- I think many would agree there were many aspects of this bill -- how's a billion dollars for the census? How's new computers for the federal government , $300 million for new federal cars, how's that stimulus ? Why did that have to be done without the proper committee hearings? Why didn't the, the members of Congress get a chance to read and debate this bill? Why didn't taxpayers get to see it online...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. JINDAL: ...like we were promised we would? Why the rush through the process? Why not do this in pieces? Why not start with what was truly -- what was originally described as temporary, targeted stimulus ?

MR. GREGORY: All right.

GOV. JINDAL: And again, it comes down to we believe put people to work, let small businesses hire.