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|Thinking beyond one's nose|
Some members of the Legislature got together for a news conference in Baton Rouge Wednesday (today) to discuss Gov. Bobby Jindal. The lawmakers were all Democrats.
Staged less than 24 hours after Jindal delivered the Republican Party's rebuttal to President Obama's speech to a joint session of the Congress, lawmakers took issue with Jindal on a number of fronts. Politics took front and center.
Politics or not, those Democratic lawmakers are partly focused on Jindal's decision to turn down some $100 million of the $4 billion Louisiana will receive thanks to the so-called stimulus package Obama signed into law last week. That's the same $800 billion stimulus bill Congress approved void of having read it.
The $100 million in federal funding Jindal doesn't want deals with unemployment benefits. He says it comes with strings attached, meaning the Legislature would be forced to amend state law as part of the deal in accepting the $100 million in question. The change in law eventually would lead to higher taxes for the business community in Louisiana, according to Jindal.
Though Jindal's decision to say "no thank you" to some $100 million in federal funding garnered headlines across the country, Jindal is fully aware the Legislature doesn't need his permission to accept and spend every last penny the economic stimulus bill appropriates for states, including Louisiana. That's the case because Congressman James E. Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, saw to it that the stimulus legislation contained language that allows a state Legislature to accept stimulus funding if its governor refuses part or all of it. In other words, Jindal can say anything he wants to say about the stimulus package. At the end of the day, or within a matter of weeks, the Legislature can tell Jindal to take a hike and gobble up any and all federal funding the Congress appropriated for states via the most wasteful appropriations bill the Congress of the United States has ever approved.
First, though, the Legislature must vote to take the stimulus money over Jindal's objection, including the unemployment monies the governor doesn't like. You can bet the farm the Legislature will take every last penny in stimulus funding, especially in light of the budgetary problems lawmakers will encounter when they convene the regular legislative session at the end of March.
Politically speaking, it's irrelevant whether the Legislature takes the $100 million that Jindal opposes. The governor has already made his point. He says it will lead to a tax increase for businesses.
The burden now shifts to state lawmakers, who will bear the responsibility for accepting federal funding for services the people will expect from the state long after those federal dollars have disappeared. In a sense, it's an unfunded mandate. A tax increase, too, according to Jindal.
Those are difficult points to make, though, to some state lawmakers, many of whom have never operated their own businesses. They know little about making ends meet. Worse, many of them apparently are not giving much thought to the long-term consequence as a result of the decisions they're making today.
Not thinking beyond one's nose comes to mind.
And that begs a question.
When was the last time the Louisiana Legislature thought beyond its nose?
Now would be a good time to start.