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|Solons look beyond legislative pay raise flap|
Sen. Mike Walsworth does not expect the Legislature will revisit the legislative pay raise issue anytime soon in light of Gov. Bobby Jindal's veto of legislation that would have more than doubled the annual compensation legislators are paid.
"No, we won't go down that road," said Walsworth, R-West Monroe, who was asked if the Legislature would meet in a special session to override Jindal's veto.
"This subject matter is done and over for a long time as far as I'm concerned," Walsworth said.
The Legislature would not have pursued a pay raise for its members, according to Walsworth, if Jindal had said early in the regular legislative session that he would veto any pay raise bill for lawmakers. The Regular Session adjourned June 23.
"He gave us his word and we went down that road, but he didn't have a choice," Walsworth said. "He had to veto it."
Walsworth was referring to Jindal's back-and-forth position on the pay raise, which consumed the public's and media's attention from the time the Legislature approved the measure until Jindal delivered his veto.
Some two weeks ago, Jindal said he would allow the legislative pay raise bill to become law without his signature, though he stated he was opposed to it.
Jindal reversed course and vetoed the pay raise bill earlier this week. He did it in the face of stiff opposition from scores of citizens across the state. He also was under intense pressure from talk radio show hosts and editorial writers at the state's most respected newspapers, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate and The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.
Walsworth doesn't think any legislators will hold grudges against Jindal, but he says there will be some strained relationships for a while.
"I voted against it, so it wasn't a big deal for me, but it does hurt when you go back on your word … it really makes relationships tougher," Walsworth said. "But, we'll work through this, and we'll be fine."
Rep. Frank Hoffmann is happy Jindal vetoed the pay raise measure.
After initially voting for the raise, Hoffmann last week recanted, saying it was a mistake and urged Jindal to veto the legislation.
"More and more people realize the timing was bad and times are tough," Hoffmann said. "It was the wrong thing to do. I think Gov. Jindal made the right choice. We did a lot of good things during this session, but the pay raise overshadowed all that. Hopefully, we can put this behind us and move forward."
Reps. Kay Katz and Rosalind Jones and Sen. Robert Kostelka were unavailable for comment.
In a prepared news release announcing his veto, Jindal said, "I have opposed this pay raise at every turn and from the very beginning. A doubling of legislative pay is clearly excessive and it takes effect prior to the next election, which I believe is bad policy. This bill would also have set up a system to give legislators automatic pay raises in the future without additional legislative votes - which is a lack of accountability that we cannot accept."
However, campaign literature surfaced recently which said as governor, Jindal would not allow legislators to approve a pay raise that took effect immediately. Instead, any pay raise "approved by the Legislature should take effect after the next election," Jindal's campaign literature stated.
"I clearly made a mistake by telling the Legislature that I would allow them to handle their own affairs," Jindal said. "As with all mistakes, you can either correct them or compound them - I am choosing to correct my mistake now.
"I have said that I was not going to stop legislators from more than doubling their own pay by vetoing this because I did not want to give them any excuse to slow down the momentum of our reform movement here in Louisiana. It turns out this is an unsustainable position. I have come to realize that the reforms I have been fighting for are simply incompatible with this legislative pay raise.
"I was trying to preserve our reform agenda and our momentum by tolerating this legislative pay raise that I knew was completely excessive. But the two cannot coexist.
"The bottom line is that allowing this excessive legislative pay raise to become law would so significantly undercut our reform agenda, and so significantly diminish the people's confidence in their own government, that I cannot let it become law. So, I have vetoed the bill."