Easter is the culmination of Holy Week for Christians, but for Gov. Bobby Jindal and some of his supporters, Holy Week was anything but.
Somehow, a lot of bad news — political and governmental — got crammed into the calendar while many of us were too busy with Easter baskets and church services to notice.
People in the State Capitol sure noticed.
Jindal’s chief of the Department of Health and Hospitals resigned, after U.S. authorities subpoenaed records about a controversial contract DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein’s department entered into with one of his former employers.
The governor’s Division of Administration canceled the contract, leading to warnings of appeals or lawsuits by the injured company.
Also on the health front, federal authorities in Washington questioned the justifications from the state on Jindal’s rush to privatize charity hospitals. More information was requested, and as the U.S. government holds the whip hand in financing health care for the poor, the state will have to be persuasive.
Meanwhile, under pressure to agree to more-generous coverage of Medicaid patients in the state, the DHH professional staff released — without fanfare, of course — a report suggesting that earlier administration alarms about the Obamacare program’s cost might have been overblown. That may lead to more pushing for the Medicaid expansion that Jindal still opposes.
This is not to mention a week full of criticisms by various groups, from Democrats in the state House to the leading business lobby, of the governor’s ambitious plan to raise state sales taxes to record highs in order to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes.
A Republican, state Treasurer John N. Kennedy, renewed his feud with the administration by calling for Jindal to put the tax plan on the ballot for voters to decide. That is an offer unlikely to be taken up, to put it mildly.
That was after the Public Affairs Research Council and others had questioned some of the basic math of the program. Their concerns seemed to be validated when Jindal’s top tax aide said the governor will need a 6.25 percent sales tax rate to make his numbers work — up from the previous 5.88 percent.
That led to suggestions even by friendly lawmakers that the governor might be cutting deals over what groups would be subject to the expanded sales tax on services, a key money-raiser in the Jindal plan. Legislators were restive, on the time-honored principle that one should be against any deal one ain’t in on.
Holy Week? More like Hell Week, when fraternities haze their pledges.
As Jindal has been in office since January 2008, the governor isn’t one of the innocent pledges anymore. He’s a veteran, constitutionally limited from seeking a third consecutive term. Is he heading for lame-duck status in the 2013 Legislature, amid all these setbacks on various fronts?
Some of his supporters are not necessarily persuaded of that.
“If a governor is pushing something, it’s never going to be dead on arrival,” according to state Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
His committee will hear about the pros and cons of the Jindal plan, but he noted that so far much of the commentary is from groups fearing higher taxes.
“Recently, we’re starting to hear from constituents who will benefit from this,” Robideaux told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
Perhaps so, but how many Hell Weeks like the last Holy Week can the administration absorb?
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