Crossing Jindal prompts dire consequences
Louisiana is 80 years removed from the reign of Huey P. Long, who quickly learned to dispense with the niceties and “dynamite” opponents out of his way.
Bobby Jindal promised a new Louisiana when he took office as governor in 2008, a Louisiana known for its prosperity rather than its politics.
However, Jindal is proving just as explosively punitive as governors before him.
Take his reaction to criticism by State Treasurer John Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne on the way Jindal handled the state budget. The governor showed no public reaction to the biting remarks. Instead, he waited until the legislative session ended and then reached for his veto pen.
With a tiny investment in ink, Jindal slashed millions of dollars in spending authority for Kennedy and Dardenne.
The governor did not stop there.
State Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, refused the Jindal administration’s request that she take a walk on a key vote involving $3.4 billion in school spending.
Days later, the governor vetoed Barrow’s legislation that aimed to give the Baton Rouge bus system more authority over fares and routes.
State Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, voted against the governor’s key bills to overhaul public schools.
Jindal nixed Erdey’s measure to help finance infrastructure improvements to the long-delayed Juban Crossing Development.
State Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, was a vocal critic of the Jindal administration.
The governor vetoed her bill to create a rebate for public school donations that generate money for textbooks, teaching materials, tutorial programs, child care and school-based health clinics.
Was this pettiness on the governor’s part? Jindal declined interview requests about his actions. However, more disturbing should be the fact that it’s Louisiana politics as usual.
“He’s behaving no differently than a lot of other governors who came before him who ruled with a pretty heavy hand,” said LSU mass communications professor Bob Mann, who worked as an adviser to Jindal’s predecessor, Kathleen Blanco.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette political professor Pearson Cross said Jindal reinforced the notion that he is to be crossed at the opponent’s peril.
“He keeps selling the idea that this is a new Louisiana, a new day, a new sheriff,” Cross said. “All of the ammunition used by Huey Long is pretty much still in Jindal’s quiver.”
During the political gutting, things were rocky in the governor’s own house although he was slow to recognize it.
State Department of Revenue Secretary Cynthia Bridges decided in April that a tax credit applied to more vehicles than originally thought. She expanded it in a move that threatened to blow a huge hole in the state budget.
State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, recognized the financial threat to the state after an accountant mentioned the expansion in a friendly chat. Thompson shared the conversation with Bridges, and then phoned Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, the governor’s budget chief, a week later to alert him.
Days passed before the news reached the governor.
Soon after Jindal learned of it, he had Bridges’ resignation letter in his hand.
A defensive Rainwater said he now is trying to figure out how much financial damage was done in the 45 days the expansion existed. He said it was Bridges’ job, not his, to tell the governor about the expansion.
Thompson said he feels terrible for the role he may have played in possibly prompting the governor to torch his friend’s political career.
“I consider Cynthia a very close friend,” he said. “I don’t want it to appear I was throwing a friend under the bus. I was asking for information.”
Michelle Millhollon covers the governor’s office for The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau. Her email address is email@example.com.