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Jindal vetoes create more opportunity for smaller govt

Gov. Bobby Jindal didn’t have to issue line item vetoes on HB 1 – the timeline allowed him to do so after the Legislature had adjourned so it would dramatically reduce the chances of any overrides – but he sent it back with a day to go in the session. What he vetoed and when he sent it back reveals much about the dynamics of the petering out of the 2009 regular session.

As expected, Jindal excised all provisions dealing with revenue-raising matters the Senate had tried to pass into law, or transference of monies from the Budget Stabilization Fund, essentially ratifying preferences of the House. He could do so precisely because he knew no override would come from the House. Now the situation is that other pieces of legislation contain in themselves the seeds of any budget deal and, as mentioned previously, the House and Jindal have the upper hand in any deal-making which must happen today.

More interesting, while most of the vetoes concerned these items, of the few that were not, many dealt with the exact area over which is the focal point of controversy – higher education. Six items vetoed reflected this, totaling $25.55 million – over a fifth of the disputed amount that the Senate wanted to add back in of $118 million. This may factor into negotiations

Most interesting, unlike the almost 250 items dealing with appropriations to nongovernmental organizations and local government vetoed last year, only one got the axe this time around. There are several reasons why this happened.

First, the publicity from the previous year about these no doubt altered the decision mechanism by legislators. Requests that did not follow Jindal’s standards, and entities that did not seem at least somewhat compelling were not forwarded. Second, shortage of money discouraged these kinds of requests. When higher education and health care were losing hundreds of millions of dollars, it probably dampened the enthusiasm of legislators to pursue these. Third, some such amendments were stuffed into some other bills, and some probably are still floating around waiting for a bill to attach to before 6 PM today.

Still, the high success rate compared to the significant casualty rate of last year may indicate that Jindal may have wanted to ease off the vetoes in order to get his preferred budget through. Last year, with a surplus, he may have had more leeway to veto with impunity but with a deficit making for more contention in dividing up a smaller pot, he may have had to tread more cautiously to create more goodwill among legislators.

In the final analysis, with these actions Jindal (with the higher education vetoes) strengthened his hand and demonstrated good faith not only to legislators but also, and most importantly, to the people as he pushed the budget that will come into a more parsimonious direction. Our wallets still won’t be safe for another several hours, but, so far, Jindal has done much to reassure us the bite won’t be as bad as it could be.

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