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Focus now on Jindal to see whether he makes gutsy call

The line in the sand over legislative pay raises got drawn and became inerasable when the Louisiana Legislature adjourned sine die yesterday. Now it’s solely up to Gov. Bobby Jindal to deal with the issue, and whatever options he chooses can make or break his political career. And they are, in order of expected positive accumulation of political capital for Jindal:

  • Veto it with help. As mentioned previously, Jindal has plenty of ammunition by which to justify a veto – a campaign promise not to allow legislators to accept a raise concurrent with their terms, that it is the first in American state history to allow for automatic raises (and using a metric based on inflation rather than on economic health), or simply that it is excessive. But, he would really have a case if he could get some members of the Legislature to help him out.

    Besides accusations that his legislation was held hostage to the bill, Jindal said he wished not to interfere with the Legislature and would respect its ability to manage its own affairs. But if just a few legislators begin to recant their support, he could claim that, before the Jul. 8 decision about signing it, vetoing it, or letting it become law without his signature, the actual will of the legislature had changed so he could add to the list above that he would felt compelled to assist the expression of this new majority will by issuing a veto. This is something Jindal could encourage by hinting at a few line-item or regular veto threats on certain appropriations or other matters to certain legislators known to be having second thoughts.

    If he got some public recantations and issued the veto, while legislative leaders might be angered, he probably would be supported by at least a large minority of legislators who he could get to rein in any drastic paybacks the leaders might try to arrange in the future. If so, he actually gains political capital out of this near-fiasco.
  • Veto it. If he can’t swing a few repented legislative sinners, he still would make a wildly popular decision to veto it anyway, citing the above reasons. This would create a very rocky situation for him with the Legislature, however, and he likely would end up losing political capital with all the potential mischief that could be done to his agenda over the next three years.
  • Don’t veto it, but arrange for a legal challenge. Art. X Sec. 29.1 of the Louisiana Constitution, in reference to elected officials among others including explicitly state legislators and their abilities to earn credit in state retirement programs by their legislative service, explicitly defines them as “part-time public servants.” (Ironically, because there is a grandfather clause in this allowing anyone who served before Jan. 1, 1997 to be exempt from the prohibition, practically all of these veteran legislators who qualify to stay in a retirement system voted for the raise because it will dramatically increase their retirement earnings.)

    In background, Jindal could be encouraging, if not arranging for a court challenge to the raise after he would let it slip into law on Jul. 8 on the basis that the suggested salary should be indicative of a full-time job and thus violates the Constitution. This is the last thing legislators would want, more publicity about the matter dragged on for months, if not years. It would allow Jindal to keep his promise to legislators yet maybe defeat the bill.

    It would make Jindal appear to be champion of the people and generate positive headlines if he actually sued or joined a suit, but at the same time it is a highly uncertain strategy that Jindal cannot control, whereas he could control everything with a veto. Further, it still wouldn’t absolve Jindal of his broken promise to be against a pay raise concurrent which could be reminded of throughout the case’s disposition. Finally, it would embitter legislators who are raise supporters. It’s a highly risky strategy that might minimize the loss of political capital but, if it comes to naught, might really cause damage to his political career. In other words, if this is Jindal’s real strategy, he’s a bigger gambler than former Gov. Edwin Edwards ever was.
  • Don’t veto it. This is the worst option. Jindal would appear weak and untrustworthy to voters. It might make for the smoothest relations with the Legislature and he may hope that translates into policy home runs down the road, but he has to consider it would give the Legislature that much more incentive to push him around so these victories may never manifest. Plus, no matter how many policy victories he might score in the next three years, this issue will not go away and he will permanently lose some part of his base over it. While he might survive that to win reelection, all the flak he is catching over the incident may finish any aspirations for higher office.
    He didn’t have to be in this position but he put himself in it. These are his options, and the one certainty is the gutsier call he makes on it, probably the better off he’ll be.


    KL said...

    How long does he have to veto it?

    Anonymous said...

    If Gov. Jindal dose not VETO this bill I can’tell u how many people will no longer support him. This is a defining issue for him.

    Rep since 1980