Dig Baton Rouge

Statesmen & Snollygosters

By Cody Worsham
October 25, 2015 can’t come soon enough.
I’m not one to wish time away, but politically speaking, the next 480 sunrises to hurry up, for when sunrise 481 ascends above the horizon – the day after the 2015 gubernatorial election – it will shine and smile on a Louisiana which no longer claims Bobby Jindal as its governor.
Jindal puts the ‘lame’ in ‘lame duck,’ and with each passing day, it becomes clearer he doesn’t give a word-that-rhymes-with-duck about the state that bafflingly elected him to head its executive branch twice.
The latest Piyush policy disaster came last week, when Jindal vetoed HB142, a bill which every single state senator and representative voted for – not a single vote against it.
In its original form, HB142, authored by Rep. Dee Richard with the backing of state treasurer John Neely Kennedy, would have generated $528 million – half a billion dollars – for Louisiana’s higher education system by cutting state consulting contracts by 10 percent across the board. Such contracts include $94,000 to teach kids social skills at recess and lunch, or state sponsorship of Chimpanzee Discovery Day, involving observation of chimpanzees in spacious forestry habitat.
After passing the House with a 98 to 0 vote, HB142 passed the Senate Finance Committee, which had shot down previous versions in each of the last three years, under Jindal’s encouragement. The Senate then amended, providing all consulting contracts totaling $40,000 or more to go to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget for final approval, and passed the bill 38 to 0. HB142’s amended form was a less stringent, if not more sensible, measure than across-the-board cuts, and it still could have generated hundreds of millions for higher education.
And, boy, does our higher education system need money. Since Jindal took office, the state’s colleges have lost 67 percent of their funding, leading talented professors and students to leave the state for greener pastures.
HB 142 was a thing of democratic beauty. Schoolhouse Rock would’ve written a song about it. It was legislation at its finest. The people spoke, saying, “We want more money for our colleges, and less money spent on frivolous consulting contracts.”
Even more miraculously, the legislature listened.
Jindal, however, did not.
Instead, he squashed the bill, claiming it would discourage companies from seeking contracts with the state. Let’s be realistic: state contracts are candy to businesses, especially those businesses with politicians like Jindal in their pockets. Candy is candy – you wouldn’t to reject a bag of it just because someone else gave 10 percent to a starving kid.
Treasurer Kennedy promised he’d be back next year with another bill. It’s the fourth year he’s tried to help higher education with such a bill, and it’s the fourth year Jindal – or one of his puppets on the Senate Finance Committee – has sent it back.
Until then, Louisiana’s decimated universities will remain underfunded, while we continue to spend taxpayer money on contracts like #672113, $94,000 to teach kids how to play.
There’s nothing wrong with teaching kids how to play. There is, however, something wrong with the state spending money to teach kids how to play instead of simply teaching kids. What a farce.
It doesn’t hurt that so many “consulting contracts” are really just the black market of political favors. Politicians push through ridiculous contracts for their business-owning friends in exchange for campaign capital. It’s oligarchy, the very enemy of democracy, and Jindal’s veto pen will always ensure the former reigns and the latter suffers.
Once again, our governor’s national political ambitions and personal preferences have trumped what is best for the state he governs. I don’t care who moves into the Governor’s mansion in January 2016. I’ll just be glad Jindal is moving out.

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