Thursday, February 19th, 2009
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
JINDAL PUTS LEGISLATORS IN SPOT
OVER STIMULUS FUNDING
In state after state across the country, cash-starved governors from both parties are anxiously awaiting federal dollars from the stimulus package that Congress passed just last Friday. One governor though who seems less than enthusiastic over receiving such a windfall is Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal. He stated publicly that he would have voted against the federal program, and has suggested he might not take much of the funding that in the coming weeks will become available. Is Jindal posturing to burnish his conservative image nationally?
Louisiana’s share of the federal pie is at least $7.68 billion, according to the Center for American Progress, a think tank that analyzed the combined impact of the bill’s tax cuts and major spending programs. In addition, there are billions of additional dollars that will b available through competitive grants to both the state and local governments. All told, the White House estimates that the new legislation will preserve or create 50,000 new jobs in the state. Much of the money would come to Louisiana automatically, but some of the new dollars would have to be specifically requested.
And that’s where the legislature comes in. Despite Jindal’s possible opposition to all or some of the stimulus funds, he does not hold all the cards. As the stimulus bill worked its way through Congress, South Carolina veteran Democrat Rep. James Clyburn amended the legislation allowing state legislatures to take the federal funding even though their governors objected. So like it or not, Jindal could see the legislature in Louisiana go over his head and ask for funds he might be opposed to receiving.
Government watchdog C. B. Forgotston pointed out in a column this week the specific provision in the law which gives final say to the legislature.
SEC. 1607. (a) CERTIFICATION BY GOVERNOR Not later than 45 days after the date of enactment of this Act, for funds provided to any State or agency thereof, the Governor of the State shall certify that: 1) the State request and use funds provided by this Act , and;
2) funds be used to create jobs and promote economic growth.(b) ACCEPTANCE BY STATE LEGISLATURE If funds provided to any State in any division of this Act are not accepted for use by the Governor, then acceptance by the State legislature, by means of the adoption of a concurrent resolution, shall be sufficient to provide funding to such State.
How will legislators in Louisiana respond if Jindal is dead set on rejecting some of the federal funds? Rep. Clyburn responds that: “I represent people; I don’t represent concepts or political philosophies. I don’t think I can set here and let their political platforms cause misery for the people I represent.”
A number of other Republican governors have enthusiastically embraced the stimulus package, and have given vocal support to the President even as Republican members of Congress were lockstep in their opposition. Governors strongly in support of the plan and anxious to take the money include many with national ambitions like Jindal. The list includes California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Connecticut Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell, and Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist. During the primaries, both Crist and Jindal were on the McCain vice presidential short list. And all three of these Republican governors joined 14 Democratic governors in signing a letter to President Obama lauding his economic plan.
Even arch conservative Republican governors were lobbying hard for more stimulus dollars. Gov. John Huntsman from Utah went to Washington and asked for up to $14.4 billion for roads, rail and sewer projects and for construction of a prison, courthouses and veteran’s nursing homes. Alabama’s Republican Governor Bob Riley made no bones about transpiration money he wanted in heavy arm twisting in Washington. He said he was “going to make sure Alabama does not miss out on the money we’re entitled to.” Jindal did not go to Washington to lobby or make a wish list. So he may be playing well to the national Republican conservative base, but could run into major legislative opposition back home. And if he cannot keep peace in his own back yard, he may undercut his national acclaim that he has brought civility and reform to Louisiana.
A number of Louisiana legislators are concerned that, with a $2 billion dollar budget deficit to fill, they need to grab onto all the federal dollars that are available. Taking on the Governor by exercising their right to go directly to Washington is something they would rather not do. But paraphrasing the congressman from South Carolina, do they draw a line in the dirt and argue the philosophy of the stimulus plan? Or do they go bring home the bacon?
Jindal speaks to the nation next Tuesday evening giving the Republican rebuttal to the President’s state of the union address. We may find out then what prevails in Louisiana…..philosophy or practically.
“Three groups spend other people’s money: children, thieves, politicians. All three need supervision.” — Aristotle
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers and websites throughout the State of Louisiana. You can read Jim’s Blog, and take his weekly poll, plus read his columns going back to the fall of 2002 by going to his own website at http://www.jimbrownla.com.
Jim also has a new book out on his views ofLouisiana. You can read about it and order it by going to www.jimbrownla.com. .
Jim’s radio show on WRNO (995 fm) from