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This time, public may find high appointee salary worth it

Gov. Bobby Jindal means it, and is willing to pay handsomely to get it. But unlike some of his past appointments, if he gets the job done, it will repay Louisianans many times over.

Last week, Jindal appointed former administration official Tim Barfield as secretary of the Department of Revenue, with the specific instructions that he serve at the point to reform the state’s tax structure. Riddled with exceptions that create inefficiencies, the current system is designed more to satisfy political constituencies than as a regime that encourages investment through market signals that will increase the overall tax take without raising rates through the efficiency provided by a fairer, flatter, and perhaps even with lower rates system.

This joins with the Legislature, which has launched a special committee to investigate the matter. Given past fizzled efforts, this act doesn’t seem likely to lead to much so Jindal explicitly backing this effort may produce the needed pressure to make sure months from now the report that gets issued doesn’t only have a few very uncontroversial conclusions make it into law and have the rest disappear until the next go-around on the issue in the distant future.

Problem is, some legislators want to use the exercise to stump for tax increases by taking more of what currently exists, instead of using it to provide incentives for the people to generate more thereby making the total take for state government higher. By getting involved now, Jindal signals, with his reiteration of revenue neutrality from any end product, that anything deviating from this pledge will earn a veto and certain demise.

As a result, the greater risk comes from nothing happening at all, as a combination of special interest pressure to retain the breaks that benefit them narrowly with no real public purpose and from legislators who out of misguided leftist ideology loathe the idea that people should keep more of what they earn in proportion to the benefits their economic activities have brought society, and/or to pander to their political bases, will try to coalesce support to negate any changes that do not take more from the public. Thus the appointment of Barfield, in whom Jindal must have great faith to deliver some beneficial change in face of this opposition, and at double the previous occupant’s salary (who, ironically, appeared to lose her job precisely because she wanted to widen an existing exemption beyond the Legislature’s intent).

Some salaries Jindal forks out have been questionable. High-priced bellhop Secretary of Economic Development Stephen Moret gets paid more than any other official outside of higher education (and his deputy higher than almost anybody else) for giving out the people’s money often for no productive reason at all. Barfield got the doubling because Jindal was able to take advantage of an authorized but never filled position and gave that to Barfield as well. (Apparently, Barfield didn’t adopt the attitude of recently-departed Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle who often held multiple jobs for Jindal without a big salary boost.) The Jindal Administration will have to find the extra portion in the Department’s budget without any additional dollars until the Legislature rules otherwise.

There’s nothing wrong on principle for a governor to pay a subordinate as much as he wants if he thinks the job performance will be worth it. For proper administration and the maximization of its quality, legislative interference in gubernatorial salary determination of an administration, long practiced in Louisiana, is undesirable. If giving the appointee two jobs seems untoward, the fact is this is perfectly legal and if the Legislature did not want this to happen, it should not have created a mechanism to allow this to happen in the first place. Whether such an action is wise, however, is a political matter: if the public concludes a governor pays too much, then it may recall him, petition impeachment by the Legislature, or, if it comes to this possibility, deny him reelection.

Yet in this instance, the political justification may exist. For if Barfield’s participation in the reform battle does produce a tax code with fewer exemptions, lower rates, and which is revenue neutral now but would promote more revenue for the future than the present system, he will have been worth every penny and many times more, and Louisiana’s citizens will owe him and Jindal a debt of gratitude.


Anonymous said...

Any one who carefully reads this blog and thinks about your position and advocacy on this issue must know that you have no independence whatsoever and have now completely gone over the edge.

Tell everyone how Mr. Barfield's company has been doing the last two years or so while he has been its chief development officer. It is in the pit and sinking deeper.

This allows Mr. Barfield to escape while his former ship is going down, and he will stay until he finds another high paying corporate job.

And, let's hear you explain how someone can be the chief executive officer and the chief legal officer of the same organization. Mr. Barfield will be getting very good, unbiased legal advice FROM HIMSELF.

Another example of the unbelievably terrible management tenets of this Administration.

We also learn from this episode how independent and competent the Civil Service is in our State, after it again rubber-stamps another request from the Governor it should have rejected.

The only redeeming statement of yours is the reference to Stephen Moret as the "bellhop."

I cannot wait to see how you justify this "bellhop" being appointed to bigger things by the Governor - such as the President/Chancellor of LSU.

Anonymous said...

I may agree with alot Mr. Barfield has to say. That's irrelevant, though. He should have never been given double the salary before starting even his first day on the job.

Of course, the above poster is correct. Sadow is nothing but a lap-licker of the Jindal Administration and will spit out whatever propaganda necessary.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure that Mr. Sadow is the author? I do find it difficult to believe that one would find almost nothing to criticize in any administration.