- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

April 22

American Press, Lake Charles, La., on Jindal’s WISE fund:

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s bid to add millions of dollars for workforce development and give more than 40,000 state workers a pay raise may be in jeopardy.

The governor’s budget proposes a $40 million allocation for the Workforce Innovation for a Stronger Economy, or WISE fund. It’s to provide money to universities and community colleges for workforce development in degrees and skills needed for the looming industrial and technology expansions throughout the state.

Jindal also proposed giving state workers a pay raise, their first in a number of years.

But some state lawmakers aren’t sure where the money is coming from and have expressed a reluctance to approve funding for these recurring expenses. The WISE fund passed unanimously in the House earlier this month. The devil, though, is where the money comes from to fund it, not this year, but in the future.

State Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, a consistent critic of the governor’s budgeting, told The Advocate of Baton Rouge that Jindal’s spending plans for 2014-2015 is filled with creative accounting that likely will not come to fruition.

“All of a sudden,” said state Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, “what you thought was relatively stable, Pandora’s box has opened.”

State Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, said he liked the WISE fund concept, but questioned whether the state could afford it.

The state Legislative Fiscal Office said the state budget could be nearly $1 billion out of whack in 2016, the year Jindal leaves office.

“It’s looks like all we’re doing is kicking the can down the road, and now it looks like the can might be getting bigger,” said state Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville.

State Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, noted that the pay raises and WISE fund are recurring expenses.

“What good is it to give a pay raise and then have to have a 10 percent reduction and send people home?” said Burns.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, the governor’s point person on the budget, said it’s up to state lawmakers to figure out how to fund these items. Some state lawmakers believe the governor is banking on a rosier revenue projection next month.

Yet legislation that would have allowed lawmakers to review a governor’s proposed budget two weeks prior to a meeting of the state Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget failed 11-8 last week in the House Appropriations Committee. Geymann said the bill would have given legislators more time to generate questions about the budget and add more transparency.

So state lawmakers have little room to complain about Jindal’s funding manipulations when they scuttled an attempt for better access and oversight of the state budget.




April 17

The Courier, Houma, La., on bill possibly creating bad public policy:

The state Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the governor to remove members of levee boards if they violate “public policy.” However, it does not define “public policy,” leaving it open to the governor’s interpretation.

That would be a terrible step backward for the autonomy of the state’s levee boards and set an unwise precedent that would allow governors to meddle with levee districts for their own political purposes.

In fact, it would encourage the kind of political interference our current system was set up to prevent.

The issue at the heart of the legislation is a lawsuit the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed against dozens of oil and gas companies.

The suit seeks payment from the energy companies because, the suit says, they have failed to live up to the terms of their state permits and are costing levee districts such as that one more than it would otherwise cost to provide flood protection.

It is a complex issue that pits some environmentalists against the oil and gas industry. It has also drawn the ire of Gov. Bobby Jindal and a host of state legislators who are trying to stop the lawsuit before it gets started.

One of their tactics is the bill that would allow the governor to remove levee board members.

Whatever anyone thinks of the merits of or motivations behind the board’s lawsuit, changing public policy to allow the governor such power over levee boards is short-sighted and would open the door to potential abuses.

If, as many in the oil and gas industry and the Legislature have argued, the lawsuit is without merit, the courts can come to that decision without the interference of state government.

Allowing the governor such direct power over board members is an overreach even for those who think the Legislature should put an end to the lawsuit.

Reactionary lawmaking is seldom a good idea, and this is an example of why it is so troubling.

The governor and his backers in Baton Rouge are willing to radically alter the balance of power between the state government and local levee boards - which should be allowed to operate with some autonomy - just to further one political outcome.

That is bad policy that would remain in place long after this governor has left office, this lawsuit has concluded and these levee board members have moved on to other pursuits.

The system of nominating and naming levee board members was set as it is to keep political meddling to a minimum. The bill the Senate is considering would undo that carefully constructed system and invite the very practices the system was designed to discourage.

Senate Bill 79 would make bad public policy and should be rejected.





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