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Blanco veto decisions shows love of big government

So let’s see, according to Gov. Kathleen Blanco, (1) you use your line item veto on state spending projects either if the spending is going to be restored or it’s connected to somebody facing legal woes, and (2) you veto bills when it’s uncertain whether local government revenue would decline to the benefit of ratepayers but you sign them when it’s certain local government revenues will increase at the expense of taxpayers.

That the larger message Blanco delivered in her series of veto and related messages concerning the most controversial bills of the session at her deadline to deal with them. It started with her poor explanation for the veto of HB 699 which would have introduced competition to the provision of cable television by granting telephone companies entrance into it by statewide franchise.

Why this was a good bill and refuting the specious arguments of its opponents has been addressed previously. Blanco wrote that she vetoed it because it was uncertain whether there would be a loss of revenue for local governments, causing the need for tax increases or service cuts.

She’s probably right, but for the wrong reason. Under the current local franchising agreement law, local governments can charge fees to ratepayers that get cable television which have nothing to do with its provision – in other words, a backdoor way of raising revenues on the back of ratepayers. HB 699 would not have permitted this although it would have apportioned monies from rates paid through the statewide franchise to local governments in relation to the number of subscribers. So, local government would lose the ability to impose stealth revenue fees – but that’s something good, not bad. Blanco shows who’s side she’s really on here – bigger (local) government, not their citizens.

Blanco also questioned (but, again, with no certainty) that the bill might violate laws dealing with local government property rights. Let’s say it did, that’s an easy one to solve – change the law if the HB 699 were found by the courts to do that. Maybe she forgets that (with the exception of a few local governments whose charters existed before the latest Constitution) the state has the last word on what powers local governments have in this area. And, in no way does HB 699 interfere with existing contracts – but even if it did, why not just offer the same statewide franchise to existing franchisees next year?

She seems concerned about hypothetical situations that could hurt (but, as noted above, actually would help many) taxpayers with HB 699, but with HB 1281, she just lets it go. This bill would steer tax dollars from state coffers to special interests in Jefferson Parish. Even with this certainty, she signed it, and then tried to have it both ways by arguing she had worked out a deal with Parish President Aaron Broussard essentially not to implement it and state Rep. and author of the controversial portion of the bill John Alario to change the new law next session.

Promises are nice, but what if Broussard doesn’t get reelected this fall? Or if Alario can’t get the bill to pass (assuming he genuinely tries to do so)? If Blanco really meant to short-circuit this favor, she would have vetoed the bill and not left its non-implementation to chance. Renovating historic structures in Baton Rouge wouldn’t be any less likely to happen if the ability to use tax increment financing was delayed a year. Instead, we must conclude either she is too trusting or trying to save face.

And, despite millions of dollars of funding going to local government who often don’t really need some project or to private organizations that have no accountability requirements and no real benefit to the entire state in their state-funded activities, she approved over 90 percent of such spending – and most of what she didn’t she admitted likely would be restored soon. Almost half of the rest of her vetoed spending was connected to someone who had legal troubles and who was getting bad press for it; little else did Blanco consider it worthy of a veto, almost none of it from $32 million of “special legislative projects.” Again, Blanco would rather cozy up to (big) local government and placate powerful political allies than direct resources to help the entire state.

Simply, Blanco’s explanation of her actions on these bills ring hollow. She loves big government, thinks it can solve all problems, and proved it with these actions and explanations of them.

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