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.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 10:30