Even before the votes were cast in last month’s election, conservatives around the country were already hoisting the banner for Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012.

All was going well for Jindal as he came into office on the heels of the disasterous Kathleen Blanco administration who mismanged the state’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina.

With Katrina reconstruction tax revenues on the rise and the record price of oil giving the state a windfall, legislators overwhelmingly passed a $360 million income tax cut and Jindal eagerly signed it.

Now with oil prices below $40 a barrel versus the $127 price in the spring when the tax cut passed so easily and with Katrina related revenues on the wane the state is now facing a budget deficit of $340 million this year and expects it to rise to $2 billion next year.

Liberal opponents of Jindal are now pointing to the tax cut as inappropriate and singling it out as an example of how unprepared Jindal is to oversee a state budget.  But I am not worried about the tax cut.  Sure it looks expensive considering what has happened in the state in just the last few months, but in tough economic times the taxpayers appreciate any effort to allow them t make spending decisions instead of the state.

On the other hand Jindal should have known that nothing lasts forever and he convinced himself that Louisiana was an economic recovery story that had no end.  It seems like that he forgot the old adage of “What goes up must come down” by thinking that oil prices would stay at the lofty levels of the spring.

Jindal doesn’t deserve all the blame as the state legislature which is in charge of craftting the state’s budget were drunk at the well of high oil prices and ignored any advice for fiscal restraint, but as the chief executive he should have insisted on a more conservative approach to spending.

Now he will have to face the same difficult decisions other governor’s are facing as he addresses the grwoing deficit.

If he wants to put some shine back on that rising star, he would be wise to take a tough stance and trim the fat from the budget without any tax or phony fee increases and streamline the government’s operations.

Jindal still has a chnace for higher office in 2012 or beyond, but it will his handling of the budget gap that will largely determine his fate.

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