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|All this fuss over soda pop money|
Back in the day, or some 20-plus years ago, the conclusion of a regular legislative session meant a post-session party would be held at some restaurant or bar somewhere in the capital city.
A large time would be had by all, including legislators, their staff and folks from the governor's office, who all got together to blow off some steam in the wake of another legislative session that was both humorous and serious at the same time.
That was then.
The festive atmosphere surrounding the Legislature is a thing of the past. For the most part. Instead, lawmakers, as a whole, are a bit more serious these days.
Serious or not, something tells us the Legislature was not in the partying mood Monday afternoon when the 2008 Regular Session adjourned.
A desire to cut loose, or to blow off some steam, if you will, was overshadowed. It was overshadowed by the unknown. The unknown, of course, stemmed from what awaited lawmakers on the home front in the wake of their poorly timed decision to raise their salaries.
While Gov. Bobby Jindal has signaled that he may be rethinking his pledge not to veto the legislative pay-raise bill, which would more than double the annual compensation lawmakers receive, the damage is done.
Or is it?
The Legislature cannot take back what it already has approved. Besides a pay raise for themselves, lawmakers signed off on a red-hot campaign issue that most likely will cost some of them their positions in the public arena when they face the electorate in three, short years. So be it.
That's the prevailing opinion in conversations among members of the media and political pundits alike.
But is that the opinion among the people who matter the most, the voters?
While many newspapers in the state have been inundated with letters to the editor in opposition to the legislative pay hike, we would do well to remind ourselves that the folks who take the time to write letters to the editor tend to be more vocal than the average "Joe Six Pack." The postings by concerned citizens on newspaper and political web sites are not an accurate gauge either in determining whether the voters are truly angry or whether we're simply hearing from a vocal minority. The same is true for the folks who listen to and place telephone calls to talk radio shows.
Yet, isn't all of that speculation meaningless over an issue that's truly meaningless in the grand scheme of things, or whether Louisiana is on the right path to becoming a better place to live and work?
I would say it is.
What's not meaningless, or what is important—at least in this corner—entails the Legislature's approval over the past six months of bills that laid the groundwork for true ethics reform in Louisiana and tax cuts for the business community. Let's not forget that lawmakers approved the largest personal income tax cut in the history of the state, while more taxpayer money was set aside for infrastructure concerns, which, over the long haul, will aid Louisiana's prospects of growing its economy. More money was pumped into education, too.
That bit of information has been lost, or overlooked, by a host of folks who have decided that Jindal and the legislators who took office in January should judged by their handling of one piece of legislation. One meaningless piece of legislation that will cost the taxpayers some $3 million annually.
Three million dollars.
That's soda pop money when one takes the time to remember that we're dealing with a more than $30-billion budget in Louisiana these days.
Soda pop money.