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Jindal should include officials' pay raise bills in veto threat

Gov. Bobby Jindal surfaced long enough to inform legislators that he will veto any statutory dedications of state revenues that find their way to his desk. He can improve on this by issuing another couple of similar veto threats on state spending.

Because of the penchant of lawmakers to tie funds from a particular source to a particular project, over two-thirds of state revenues presently are spoken for in the budgeting process. This reduces flexibility and tends to place any necessary reductions disproportionately on health care and, to a smaller degree, higher education. Already Jindal has complained about his budget being trimmed, largely in these two areas because of the presence of dedications.

This sentiment long has needed to be exercised as over the decades more and more state-generated revenues got locked away. Jindal, however, seemed to leave room for exceptions when discussing a piece of legislation signed into law in the second special session earlier this year, which dedicated any funds directly derived from transportation activities should go to roads, port, and airport construction. The guiding principle here is that something directly bearing on an activity could have its revenues collected come back to it in expenditures, which often is not the case with current laws and proposed legislation.

Jindal used the opportunity to criticize the budget slicing of the Legislature of his programs, and suggested instead they lop off earmarks they inserted into it to restore some of his requests. While restoration of the spending would conflict with the desire Jindal has stated in the reduction of “one-time” money going to fund recurring commitments which legislative leaders have stated us the reason behind excising that spending, Jindal should go further on the matter of the earmarks: he should tell legislators they all were subject to his line-item veto pen.

Perhaps that was the veiled threat he was implying and, if so, he needs to go even beyond that on a couple of pieces of bad legislation. HB 939 by state Rep. Jeff Arnold would increase the pay of part-time public servants that comprise the Public Service Commission from $45,000 to $75,000, while SB 672 by state Sen. Ann Duplessis would increase legislative salaries in most cases by about $35,000 a year for jobs that are designed and intended to be even more part-time in nature than those of the PSC.

For the necessary work of the state (as opposed to what these elected officials choose to do and then demand payment for it whether it really serves well the people) their present pay is more than adequate, yet these bills are alive and HB 939 advancing almost to the doorstep of the governor. Together they would cost the state over $6 million more a year which, as Jindal pointed out, could be used to fund his reduced health care and education requests.

Jindal needs immediately to convey that these two bills should they get to him face unquestioned vetoes. Becasue they are so inherently abhorrent, he need not use his assent of them as a bargaining chip for other items. Thus, the Legislature can drop any idea of having these items in the budget and allocate it elsewhere – the same strategy used when he declared a pox on dedications. Hopefully, he’ll pop into media view again soon to do precisely this.


Anonymous said...

Honest question: Doesn't a part-time, low paying legislative structure such as Louisiana's make it difficult for ordinary citizens (that is, those who are not independently wealthy) to participate in the state's governance?

It seems as if the part-time schedule and limited compensation would limit lawmaking in Louisiana to those with higher-than-normal financial means.

Jeff Sadow said...

The low pay that restricts participation issue is the most frequent and legitimate critique of the part-time argument. There is no question that many are excluded from running because the nature of their careers cannot tolerate a two-to-three month sabbatical with other interruptions possible as well.

However, it is not totally restrictive. For example, the mayor of Shreveport, Cedric Glover, spent almost his entire adult life in an elected office somewhere, with his latest stretch having been in the Legislature. To subsidize his elective experience, essentially he worked part-time. There are others in the Legislature like that, and retirees from other occupations as well.

In short, this fact does eliminate many potential officeholders. But it does not restrict non-wealthy individuals from getting there, especially those that are so passionate about it that they are willing to attenuate their careers to fit it. that's the kind of representative I would prefer rather than a full-timer who, in part to justify his full-time status, will try to grow government regardless of the true nature and scope of government.