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Louisiana can do better than "follow-the-leader" Blanco

In Louisiana politics there are leaders and then, well, there’s Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Once again, the barn door has closed and she’s off chasing a horse, this time one connected rationality in the state budgeting process.

One of the more irrational features of the process is typically the capital outlay bill having more spending in it than is constitutionally allowed. Fiscal year 2007 is no exception and Blanco’s staff recently released the list of projects that made the cut, that can be funded with the money available (this being one way in which the Legislature allows the governor to push it around, by letting her office make in essence the final decision on what gets funded).

With the releasing of the list, her staff took the opportunity to tout how they chose to segregate requests into different categories, and then choosing on the basis of priority (defined by them) within categories. It’s a small step that might produce funded projects more on merit and less on politics, in contrast to attempts last year at this time.

However, the idea itself is nothing new as the person who oversees the next step of the process, the authorizing of bond sales to cover the costs, state Treasurer John Kennedy, last year suggested that the body responsible for this, the Bond Commission, be able to do essentially the same. He offered this idea to the Commission in the post-disaster environment where dollars were more precious than ever – and the plan got incinerated by the Commission, controlled by a majority of Blanco, her appointee, and legislative loyalists.

Maybe Kennedy should try again as it seems he would get a much better reception this time. But the episode is yet another example revealing Blanco’s base political instincts – a blend of liberalism and populism where politics, not principle, guides most decision-making, where governing is done primarily on behalf of supportive constituencies with the rest of the state’s citizens represent mere afterthought. Only when the citizenry voice sufficient complaint does Blanco change course more to their liking.

We’ve seen it time and time again – her resistance to flood control reform that resulted in millions being spent on an extra special session, her not wanting to provide a partial bailout of homeowner’s insurance premiums triggered by failures of state administration that she now seems to favor, and then this. Wouldn’t Louisiana be better off by having a governor who naturally leads by putting the people ahead of cronies, instead of having to drag Blanco along to accomplish the same?

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