“The reformist image of Gov. Bobby Jindal, considered by Republicans a top potential vice-presidential choice, has recently taken a beating after Mr. Jindal refused to veto a sizable pay increase that Louisiana legislators voted for themselves this month,” the New York Times reports.
“The increase would more than double the salary of the part-time legislators effective July 8, to $37,500 from $16,800, with considerably more money available once expenses are added in. It has touched a nerve in this impoverished state.”
Just for some context: Pending pay raises for Illinois legislators would “raise the basic salary of a state representative and senator by more than $7,000 a year, to nearly $73,000,” according to the Jacksonville Journal-Courier. “Compensation for legislative leaders would top $100,000, and the governor’s salary would go up $20,000 to a total of $190,000.”
(To be fair, Illinois lawmakers are considered full-time; they are part-time in Louisiana.) I stand corrected; Illinois lawmakers are also considered part-time.
“Conservative talk-radio show hosts and bloggers have denounced it, newspaper editorials have inveighed against it – The Times-Picayune of New Orleans called the increase ‘greedy’ and its main proponent ‘shameless’ — and the legislators themselves received floods of e-mail messages from angry constituents,” the Times piece continues.
This is fascinating because of the reform rhetoric that propelled Jindal into office. It sounds awfully familiar.
“More confounding to many citizens here than the action by the lawmakers is the inaction of Governor Jindal, who came into office this year with promises to overhaul Louisiana’s reputation for dubious ethics.”
In short, he promised to rock the system.
“During his election campaign, he vowed to prohibit legislative pay raises. Once elected, he quickly pushed through a package of measures increasing the Legislature’s transparency and stamping out conflicts of interest, basking in the subsequent glow of his image as a youthful Ivy League reformer doing battle in a shady subtropical outpost.”
“Even while denouncing the money lawmakers are giving themselves, the governor has tried to depict the matter as an internal legislative affair that does not require his meddling.
“’I will keep my pledge to let them govern themselves,’ the governor said in a statement last week after the State Senate passed the increase, backing off a rejection of the raise, though he also said he was ‘very sorry’ about it. Editorialists and radio show hosts have since had a field day juxtaposing that ‘pledge’ to the Legislature with the promise Mr. Jindal made when he was running last fall to ‘prohibit legislators from giving themselves pay raises.’”
Here’s where Jindal is different than our governor: His strategy seems designed to ingratiate himself with legislators he will need to pass his program.
“Mr. Jindal’s strategy was apparently based on a desire not to jeopardize the other elements he won in his legislative wish list, like a voucher program for private schools in New Orleans, or restoring spending cuts made by fiscal conservatives in the Capitol.
“’He was not about to give the Legislature any excuse to block his reform agenda,’ said the governor’s spokeswoman.”
I’m sure they’ll find one anyway. And then maybe Jindal will have learned his lesson.