Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jindal steps up again ...

The TP reports that "Jindal hacks budget earmarks," in a story by Jan Moller:

BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Bobby Jindal (pictured) used his line-item veto authority to cut more than $16 million in proposed state spending Monday, killing hundreds of earmarks added by legislators for projects in their districts and signaling a new aggressiveness in dealing with the state budget.

The 258 vetoes in House Bill 1, the state's nearly $30 billion operating budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year, is more than double the combined number of line-item vetoes in the past 12 years. Coupled with Jindal's veto of $9.3 million in spending from a previous budget bill, they suggest the new governor is serious about curbing a cherished legislative tradition of sprinkling the budget with items for constituents, often with little or no oversight.

While critics have long derided such earmarks as pork-barrel spending, defenders say they pay for critical needs that otherwise wouldn't be financed. Gone is money targeted for museums, church groups, festivals, youth programs, nonprofit groups and economic development initiatives, including millions of dollars for the New Orleans area.

"For too long, state government has spent and spent, with little regard for taxpayers' money," Jindal said. ". . . We are striving for an efficient state government that operates transparently, and wisely invests taxpayer money in state priorities."

But the vetoes could also serve to deepen the wound that Jindal opened when he killed a pay raise for legislators last month after promising lawmakers he would stay out of the matter.

More by Jan Moller:

Jindal's vetoes breeding 'distrust.' Lawmakers mull first override session

BATON ROUGE -- As lawmakers stewed over Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget vetoes and mulled whether to return for an unprecedented override session, several agreed Tuesday that the new administration must work hard to repair its relations with the Legislature.

Jindal used his line-item veto authority to chop about 250 legislative earmarks from the state budget this week. "Many of them who serve (in the Legislature), they serve for this very reason," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Michot, R-Lafayette. "They serve to be able to bring money back to their districts."

Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, who lost financing for a community center in the Treme area that has been in operation since 1976, said he thinks it is time for lawmakers to assert themselves and hold a veto override session. "I don't understand why it was cut," Murray said. "It serves the only hot meal some people get every day."

Jindal has said that although some of the projects were "worthy," they did not meet his criteria to be included in the state budget.

The 1970s-era state Constitution provides for an automatic five-day veto-override session each year, but it has never been held because lawmakers always vote to cancel it. If one is held this year, it would be scheduled from Aug. 2-6. It takes a two-thirds vote of each chamber to override a veto and a simple majority of just one chamber to cancel the veto session.

Should an override session be held, lawmakers could debate more than 260 cuts Jindal made to three budget bills, as well as the 23 bills Jindal has vetoed since lawmakers went home. Ballots on the session will go out today and must be returned by July 28 at midnight, House Clerk Alfred "Butch" Speer said.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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