Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
Story Archives: Paybacks can be hell
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|Paybacks can be hell|
Weeks ago it appeared Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature would trudge through the election-year regular session amid little fanfare and move on to more important matters – such as gear up for the fall elections.
Little did anyone expect the governor would be forced to turn his attention to a record-rising Mississippi River, which continues to pose a serious threat to the Louisiana Delta while residents in southern Louisiana fight flood waters courtesy of the Morganza Spillway being opened for the first time since 1973. Make no mistake, the Morganza was opened to keep the Mississippi out of downtown Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It was not opened to lower the river's level at Vidalia, which witnessed a record crest of 62.5 feet last week.
Suffice it to say, Jindal is no stranger to disasters. Since taking office in January 2008, he has dealt with two fairly significant hurricanes, an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and now the high water from the Mississippi. Each one of them a disaster in its own right.
Jindal's performance in handling those disasters has been a far cry from that of his predecessor, Kathleen Blanco, who to this day blames President George W. Bush and his administration for her inept leadership during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Granted, Jindal didn't have to do much to top Blanco, but he has and the public obviously recognizes it.
One gets the impression Jindal learned from Blanco's mistakes. At the very least, Jindal realizes the public would turn on him in a heart beat if he appeared to be in over his head in handling a situation that called for a leader to lead, or for a governor to actually act like a governor.
That helps explain why Jindal is all over the place at all times, visiting affected areas during a disaster. Akin to his activities when hurricanes Gustav and Ike struck the state in 2008 as well as his movements during the oil spill last year, Jindal visited the Delta a handful of times over the past six weeks, and he's maintained a steady presence south of the Morganza of late.
Jindal's efforts, though, to reassure the public he's firmly in control of the state's response to the high water of 2011 have taken their toll on his relationships with state lawmakers. By and large, legislators are doing their best to make Jindal's life as miserable as possible during the regular session.
That became abundantly clear when the Legislature refused to go along with Jindal's proposal to merge Southern University in New Orleans with the University of New Orleans. Ditto when lawmakers bucked the governor on his drive to sell some state prisons to free up monies the administration banked on to balance the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget.
Creating another headache for Jindal, Rep. Brett Geymann, a Republican from Lake Charles, convinced the House of Representatives to adopt a new rule that requires the House to approve by a two-thirds vote the use of one-time revenues to balance the budget. Remember, one-time revenues are monies that won't necessarily be around for the Legislature to spend down the road – like next year.
Geymann's new rule doesn't affect the more moderate Senate, but it certainly created havoc for Jindal because his proposed budget for the new fiscal year contains some $500 million in one-time monies. Without the one-time revenues, lawmakers would be forced to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from a budget that already features about $1.6 billion in less revenues for the new fiscal year compared to the current fiscal year.
Over the next several weeks as the regular session nears an end, look for Jindal and the Legislature as a whole to mend fences on a number of fronts, including the budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1. They'll balance it one way or another. The state constitution requires it.
Yet, it's certainly possible the Legislature will continue to exercise some independence from the governor, cementing some bruised feelings that may be beyond repair. If that's where Jindal and the Legislature are headed, lawmakers should do themselves a favor and remind themselves that the world is round.
And paybacks can be hell.