A couple of tried-and-true sayings come to mind. “Be careful what you wish for” is one. The other is “If it weren’t for bad news, there would be no news at all”.
When he took the oath of office and settled into his Fourth Floor Office in the State Capitol, he discovered that Louisiana was facing a fiscal crisis to rival any of those of past decades.
To make matters more difficult, he was facing a Republican-controlled Legislature, which ignored his leadership choices and placed its own party favorites in the top jobs.
That development must have caused some tossing and turning in his bed at night. After all, many of those same Republican legislators are partly responsible for the financial mess because they did not have the courage to challenge Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Even after a chaotic special session where taxes were raised and cuts were made, the state is still facing a $70 million dollar budget hole for this year which ends June 30.
And glancing down the road, there is a $750 million sinkhole in the budget for the next fiscal year. That means another special session will have to be called to deal with that impending disaster.
If the Republicans in the Legislature refuse to approve any more taxes or eliminate tax credits to corporations, standing in the cross-hairs, as usual, will be higher education and healthcare services.
It’s not an enviable position for the governor or for any legislator for that matter. The citizens of the Bayou State have finally been told the truth about the failures of the Jindal administration where most of his attention was set on his ambition to become president of the United States, which by the way, also turned out to be a disaster.
To be sure, it is a turbulent – and crucial – time in Louisiana’s history when the governor and 144 men and women in the Legislature will determine the state’s future for many years to come.
Wait! There is a bit of good news
There is a bit of good news for Gov. John Bel Edwards. A recent poll reveals that more than half of respondents blame former Gov. Bobby Jindal for the state’s financial crisis while one-quarter blame the Legislature.
The poll was conducted by the University of New Orleans Research Center the weekend after the special session was completed.
When asked if there is a crisis with the state budget, 79% said yes, 11% said no, and 10% didn’t know.
When asked who is responsible for the budget crisis, 55% said Jindal, 28% said the Legislature, 4% said Edwards, and 13% didn’t blame anyone.
There was more good news for the new governor. He is viewed more favorably than the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Edwards had a 43% favorability rating with 34% viewing him unfavorably.
The Legislature, however, was viewed favorably by only 15% of respondents, while 53% gave it an unfavorable rating.
The remaining respondents to get to 100% refused to answer the question.
In studying the poll, it is a bit disconcerting to note that only 79% believe the state has a budget crisis and that 4% believe the crisis was created by Gov. Edwards.
One has to wonder what planet they live on. But it indicates how many uninformed voters we have in the state. Either that, or they just don’t care.
One can deduct that those factors are why voter turnout in all elections is so low.
Big payday for legislators?
This has been a busy year so far for Louisiana legislators, and it will likely get busier with another special session after the current regular session ends on June 6.
What is supposed to be a part-time political job is nearly turning into a full time job in 2016. It is not fun, either, as they grapple with a budget crisis, one of the worst in the state’s history.
So, how much are state legislators paid for their labors on behalf of the citizens they represent? There will probably be disagreement over whether its too little or too much. That decision rests with you, the reader.
The base pay for a state legislator in 2016 is $16,800. They get a $6,000 expense allowance to spend as they see fit. Per diem is $159 for each day the legislature is in session.
For the 2016 Regular Session, taking place now, they will earn $13,515. For the Special Session, they have earned $3,975. If another Special Session occurs, it will add another $3,975 to each legislator’s salary.
Let’s total it all up:
Base Salary – $16,800.
Expense Account – $6,000.
Regular Session Per Diem – $13,575.
Special Session Per Diem – $3,975.
Another Special Session – $3,975.
The total salary for 2016 – $44,325.
But you have to add to that the fact that some legislators travel to Baton Rouge for committee meetings when the Legislature is not in session. Analysts conclude that amounts on average of $3,146 a year. That brings the salary to $47,471.
Each legislator is provided $3,500 a month to pay a legislative assistant. And they get $1,500 a month for expenses, which must be vouchered, to buy necessary items for their office and other purposes. The state does provide some equipment, such as computers, when the legislator initially takes office.