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1.7.08

On line items, Jindal shows consistency and resolve

Lost in all the hoopla about Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of the legislative pay raise, an issue on which he made contradictory promises, appeared to take the side of 76 legislators instead of 2.8 million voters, then reversed himself to veto, was in contrast the unswervingly decisive way in which he handled certain line items tucked into HB 1287, the supplemental appropriations bill concerning which his veto decisions were announced along with that of the failed raise. On Apr. 30, he set out standards by which many of these items would be judged. Two months later, judgment day came for some of them based on those criteria.

Several items he excised arguing there were alternative ways using existing pools of money to fund them. Some others (with Republican Livingston Parish state Rep. Rogers Pope and state Sen. Dale Erdey bearing the brunt) he axed because they were purely local government concerns and should get funding from that source. Most of the others, dealing with nongovernmental organizations, in his mind failed at least one of his four-part test outlined previously: the item (1) must have statewide or substantial regional impact, (2) must have been presented/openly discussed during the legislative session, (3) must be a state agency priority, and (4) must have the proper disclosure form published online prior to consideration for funding (consistent with information provided in the House disclosure form).

A couple of items appeared out of nowhere without any disclosure. The Gulf South Research Institute, a private contractual firm based in New Orleans for decades, got its $300,000 stricken, and a $750,000 gift that would be passed along by an LSU unit to the private firm TransGenRx met the same fate (maybe it was included to make up for the nearly $400,000 it has spent on lobbying in the in past three years).

Jindal also saw something he didn’t like in a request to pay off the Maritime Institute for Emergency Monitoring and Response, requested by Republican Sen. Mike Michot to the tune of $396,500. Maybe it was because it was for a conference that already had been held and thus presumably paid for, or that it also had prominent Democrats participating, or that the end product from the conference was just too narrow in scope.

Sometimes it might have been too little. The Livingston Council on Aging, on Republican state Rep. Tom McVea’s request, asked for $10,000 out of a budget approaching $2 million; Jindal may have thought the request to fund one small program for an agency, especially when funded elsewhere in the budget, with that much just was not a compelling state need. Or, it might have been too much with too much dependence. According to the forms, the $500,000 requested by the Louisiana Center Against Poverty, requested by Democrat state Sen. Francis Thompson, and the $1 million by Democrat state Rep. Karen Peterson for the Dryades YMCA seemed to comprise the entire agency budgets and, while listing specific programs, vaguely talked about how they would reduce poverty. They earned vetoes.

(But neither did Jindal appear to have overt animosity against certain legislators. Other programs sponsored by Thompson and Peterson that weren’t too different than the ones he vetoed passed his muster. Whether his administration was keen on some of the principals and their backers of the organizations with vetoed requests is another matter.)

Finally, some vetoed items seemed to suffer from incomplete or contradictory information. The Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association asked for $12,000 for a playground but with no sponsor or financial information, and met the same veto fate as the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network for $500,000 with the same problems (Jindal also suggested that it look for funds from the designated governmental tourism agency for the area, the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau to which he allowed $14,810,000.) The Red River Film Society also had incomplete information and its $500,000 request was $100,000 more than it had on its disclosure form.

Jindal may have dithered before supporting the repeal of the Stelly Plan income tax hike. He may have repeatedly said he would not veto the pay raise, and then did. But on the matter of line item appropriations, he has been absolutely consistent. With his vetting of the general appropriations bill ongoing, he has shown that some legislators and the interests they represent should be nervous.

1 comment:

James said...

Lord, I'm glad that this is an on-going process. I feared that this $9 million represented the entire line item vetos of the $55 million plus in slush funds. They range from the "okay" projects to the totally useless and bizarre. Cut them all!