Monday, June 30, 2008

Bobby Jindal Passes Political Gut Check

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal(R) vetoed a pay raise passed by the Legislature:
“I have opposed this pay raise at every turn and from the very beginning. A doubling of legislative pay is clearly excessive and it takes effect prior to the next election, which I believe is bad policy,” Governor Jindal said. “This bill would also have set up a system to give legislators automatic pay raises in the future without additional legislative votes - which is a lack of accountability that we cannot accept.”

The Governor had previously said he would not veto the pay raise to allow the legislature to conduct its own internal affairs. “I clearly made a mistake by telling the legislature that I would allow them to handle their own affairs,” Jindal said. “As with all mistakes, you can either correct them or compound them - I am choosing to correct my mistake now.

“I have said that I was not going to stop legislators from more than doubling their own pay by vetoing this because I did not want to give them any excuse to slow down the momentum of our reform movement here in Louisiana. It turns out this is an unsustainable position. I have come to realize that the reforms I have been fighting for are simply incompatible with this legislative pay raise.

“I was trying to preserve our reform agenda and our momentum by tolerating this legislative pay raise that I knew was completely excessive. But the two cannot coexist.

“The bottom line is that allowing this excessive legislative pay raise to become law would so significantly undercut our reform agenda, and so significantly diminish the people’s confidence in their own government, that I cannot let it become law. So, I have vetoed the bill.”
I suspect an override is in the works.

However, this episode does highlight a particular danger. Jindal campaigned on a promise to clean up the corruption--which is good. One way to clean up that corruption is to permit legislators to earn a reasonable salary for their work, which for the Louisiana legislature over the past year has meant almost a full-time job. The pay raise helps that effort. But pay raises for legislators are politically bad mojo. So Jindal was between a rock and a hard place on this one.

I think he navigated the right course. Objecting to the pay raise taking effect before the next election is politically safe. It says to the legislature, pass this thing to take effect after the next election and you might get my signature, but all the general public sees is "Vetoed pay raise."

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