In a defining moment in his early executive political career, Gov. Bobby Jindal showed that he got it when he vetoed SB 672 that would have given a huge pay raise to legislators to some of the higher levels in the nation. Who won and lost as a result?
Big winners: The original handful of legislators not only who opposed the raise but then refused to take it. They come out with their integrity intact and tremendous moral authority to offer themselves as true servants of the people, eschewing privilege at the people’s expense. They were able to stick to principle and will be seen as heroes, giving their careers a boost.
Winners: Jindal. Yes, he may have in the future on some occasions rough times with the Legislature since he appeared to allow many of them to endanger their own political careers by permitting them to go the record as being for a raise and they will smart over that. But public opinion solidly on his side as a result of this veto will buttress his power to get his agenda through. It allows him to keep a campaign promise to oppose raises he called “excessive” and demonstrates he understands that as governor it also is his power and responsibility to prevent undesirable policy to be made when he can. Jindal’s news conference, in justifying his veto and retraction of his vow not to interfere in legislative affairs thereby signaling he intended not to veto it, showed he understands these points and has the political maturity and wherewithal to make the right decision, even when difficult.
Unfortunately, Jindal squandered political capital up to this point. His previous didactic statements about not vetoing, accusations of retribution if he did, and seeming insouciance at the prospect of it going through as a result of his failure to act left not only his supporters but everybody puzzled. His arguments about the sanctity of legislative independence and equating “non-support” with failing to sign bad legislation and letting it come into law instead of vetoing it convinced no one that he was doing the right thing.
Also in this category is a pair of legislators who publicly recanted their raise support came out looking a little better than worse. Their votes for it now do no harm, and they will have a leg up in integrity on the minds of the public for repudiation and calling on Jindal to veto (whether that made any difference to Jindal, they can hint that it did).
Losers: Legislators who said they were going to accept the raise, even if they voted against it. Some tried to be too clever by asserting they would donate it in some fashion, because this would have created private slush funds on taxpayers’ dollars in essence, giving them the ability to dole out state funds for political support if they chose. Acceptance showed they thought it was justified when on so many levels it was not.
Big losers: Legislators who voted for the raise, including the ones volunteering the donation strategy. Although some come from districts that largely are apathetic about politics, their constituents often thinking it entirely appropriate that government should confiscate as much money as possible from citizens to redistribute it (preferably to them, usually far more coming their way than they pay), other have districts whose constituents are much more engaged in the political process, do not like powerful, resource-hoarding government, and see the raise as the perfect example of this mentality they dislike in their legislators. These voters will abandon these legislators for the rest for the latter’s political lives.
In the end, it may have been some of these legislators that proved the last impetus for Jindal’s reversal. A few hit with recall petitions and others perhaps worried petitions were on the way to target them, they may have thought this was the way to defuse the issue. It may well not. These legislators will not get a raise and their affirmative votes will haunt many of them the rest of the term. Do not be surprised if a few don’t make it back in 2012, and they will get no compensation for so thoroughly and decisively slashing their own political throats.
Biggest loser: House Speaker Jim Tucker, who is seen as the guiding force that got the raise through. He voted for it, he won’t get it and, if he survives a recall effort (he’s not threatened to lose his Speaker’s job), he will never go beyond this station in his political career as a result of his shameless and open advocacy of an expansion of government that he as a conservative is supposed to oppose.
Biggest winner: Naturally, the people of and their state of Louisiana.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:40