That Democrat Sen. Pres. Joel Chaisson’s bills to change the way the Budget Stabilization Fund works appear lifeless even before the session’s start on Monday both shows that Republican Speaker Jim Tucker gets it and any presumed fealty of his to fellow Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is more a product of association and not correlation.
Chaisson’s SB 1 and SB 2 would amend the Constitution to allow the fund, the state’s savings account, to be tapped if a revenue shortfall occurs as a result of a reduction in federal funds coming into the state that puts a forecasted state budget into a predicted deficit. Currently, a deficit for these purposes may occur only because state-generated revenues independent of any federal contributions do not keep up with state spending independent of federal-supplied funds outgoing. It is an approach with which Jindal may well agree, as his administration has stated the current system doesn’t function .
But Tucker does not agree with Chaisson’s approach, arguing it would be easier to “raid” the fund. While Chaisson notes it would require a supermajority of the Legislature to do so, Tucker is correct at the theoretical level. The Fund concept at its inception was aimed at only state dollars estimates of which must go through a formal process whose amounts are constrained by policy decisions made by the state’s majoritarian branches.
By contrast, decisions about federal funds inflows to the state are out of the hands of state policy-makers, being made in
The point is not that a supermajority procedure makes it more difficult for legislators avoiding hard choices to use it, but that it was designed as an instrument to shape state policy-making through use of state revenue-raising means and spending decisions, not as a tool to respond to federal government decisions over which state government has no control. Chaisson is mistaken to focus on the procedures to justify the change, rather than recognizing the change transforms the fundamental nature of the Fund, which is why that must be resisted.
Tucker realizes this at a certain level and thus, because he is Speaker, only an overwhelming revolt by his representatives or a full-court press by Jindal can hope to get the bills through his chamber. This goes to demonstrate that Tucker relishes independence from Jindal, a reality some mistakenly overlook.
Jindal and Tucker do often agree on policy, but that’s more fortuitous accident than typifying Tucker’s relationship to Jindal, as one observer put it, as “whose loyalty to the governor would normally put a poodle to shame.” As his reaction over legislative pay raises and abolishing the lieutenant governor’s office shows, even if ideological comrades- in-arms, if he feels (whether it actually is) something is beneficial enough to the House and members’ place in governance, if Jindal opposes he will cross swords with him.
Of course, Tucker was wrong on the issue of paying part-time legislators full-time dough and Jindal made him pay politically with a veto, and Tucker is wrong about following his members on retaining the lieutenant governor’s office as well. But he is correct on this issue, and these bills should go nowhere.