Over the past six years, Governor Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Republican Party have successfully riddled their opponents with blancos, ridden roughshod over all political opponents and have roped the pro-Obama dopes into oblivion.
The Sheriff, Jindal and his deputy, Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, have laid down the law, and the law has won.
So dominant a force they have been that the deputy has become the powerful deputy Chairman of the National Republican Committee (NRC) and the Sheriff leads his riding partners as Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA). Talk has been rampant that the high-profile job at the NRC is a possibility and that the RGA is merely a way-post to the bigger rodeo, the White House.
Which powerful positions have led some local politicos and other lawmakers to wonder out loud—who’s calling the shots for the humble people of Louisiana.
While Jindal has claimed to be “Louisiana-first”, his opponents, political watchers and many of his own card-carrying party members smirk in disbelief.
While Villere says he knows what is best for the state and for its republicans, others nod with anguish, saying his loyalty is to the nationals’ barons with the governor helping to fund the state party while balking the orders.
Which in normal times, such an arrangement would work quite well.
But, these are not normal times.
For the sixth consecutive year, the governor wants to use one-time money to fix a budget hole that grows wider and deeper than Lake Jindal, the environmental disaster-sinkhole in Bayou Corne named after him.
Members of his own party have become frustrated with his inconsistent talk and behavior. They applaud when he has touted that using one-time money to pay ordinary bills is akin to living off a credit-card. However, they wince when he not only uses the cards but depletes assets in fire-sale fashion.
Now, things are really getting tougher as his own horses are beginning to buck him.
On Thursday, Republican House Speaker Kleckley, Jindal’s hand-picked honcho finally saw the legislative town going into rebellion and decided to jump out in front of the posse and lead that charge. In doing so, he vacated his former spot as a Jindal lieutenant. In a speech before the House of Representatives, Kleckley made the following statement which he also distributed to the media:
Shining moment to show our independence
BATON ROUGE – Speaker Chuck Kleckley today stepped up to the microphone to address the entire House of Representatives to say, “I’ve been in several meetings in the last couple of days to discuss the budget process and what’s going on here in the house. I have been very, very encouraged. It has been very positive. It has been very upbeat.”
He also said, “With the hard work of several members from both parties – a very broad bi-partisan effort - I feel very comfortable that by Monday at the latest, there will be a clearly defined plan in place to help resolve many of these challenges that we are having with our budget; that we have had for the last six years.”
In preparation for next week’s House debate on HB 1, Members and staff have been working hard on amendments and proposals.
“We have got to find a way to resolve these challenges,” Kleckley said. “We have got to find a way to resolve these budget deficits,” he said.
Kleckley asked the house to show its independence and not to commit to anyone to reject a plan that hasn’t been put forth yet. “These are monumental challenges that we have all got to look at,” he said, “and as a body have got to come up with a solution. This is a clear and shining moment for the House of Representatives to show our independence.”
The speaker appealed to Members with a request: “I’m asking you as your leader, as your Speaker of the House. Let’s sit tight. Let’s give this plan an opportunity for everybody to look at before you make a decision, I think that’s an important part; that is a key to passing a responsible and reasonable budget for the state of Louisiana and for the House of Representatives.”
Later last night, the airwaves began to howl with email missives.
John Maginnis and Jeremy Alford wrote in LaPolitics:
....In a meeting with Republicans senators Wednesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal restated his opposition to raising revenues without cutting an equal amount in taxes.
Earlier this week, an e-mail from state Republican Party headquarters, which is seen as controlled by Jindal, read in part: "Republicans in the Legislature need to be fighting to balance the budget without increasing taxes and should not be negotiating with Democrats on eliminating tax credits and incentives which are critical at fostering business investment." It urged constituents "to contact their representatives and tell them to oppose the tax increases being discussed in the Legislature."....
That was followed by an email dispatch from the Jindal-Villere war room. An unofficial bounty has been placed upon Kleckley’s and their fellow Republicans’ heads, who have the “audacity” to rebel against their leaders. Even super-conservatives, who proudly label themselves as the “fiscal hawks” who have grown tired of makeshift annual budgets clouded by fantasy campfire smoke and mirrors and by inadequate cuts are in the wrath of their masters. The LaGOP email:
Action Alert: Urge The Louisiana House To Oppose Tax Increases
Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley has just announced that the legislature will be unveiling a budget “compromise” package early next week between some Republicans and the most liberal Democrat members of the state legislature. Details are scarce at the moment, but reports say some Republican members of the Louisiana House are going to cave to Democrat demands and agree to increase taxes by $500 million to fund a long-term increase in the size of government.
Raising taxes would hit working Louisiana families the hardest and would stunt economic growth. Our state has done well at recovering from the national recession and has outperformed the national unemployment average, but all of this progress could be lost if a tax increase is implemented.
Louisiana taxpayers should not have to pay higher taxes to fund a long-term expansion of government. Call your legislator and urge them to support a budget compromise which does not include tax increases and instead focus on legislation which will create jobs and keep taxes low.
Negotiations Ongoing For Budget That Could Include Tax Increases . . .
“Conservative Republicans want to strip piecemeal financing from ongoing programs, and Democrats want to rework tax breaks to drum up new money for spending. They are working on a plan that would incorporate both.” (Associated Press, 5/2/13)
“House Speaker Chuck Kleckley threw his support Thursday behind discussions among representatives aimed at coming up with a mix of spending cuts, revenue increases and other measures to close a gap in the state budget. Those negotiations have involved a bipartisan group of lawmakers and would include elements, including reductions or eliminations of tax breaks, that are opposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.” (Times-Picayune, 5/2/13)
“Kleckley's support strengthens an already powerful coalition that includes a group of conservative Republicans, Democrats and the Legislative Black Caucus. Those factions have been meeting since last week to hammer out a deal that would replace about $490 million in so-called one-time money in the state's $24.7 billion budget with cuts,revenue increases and money that is currently dedicated to specific uses.” (Times-Picayune, 5/2/13)
“A deal is expected to be announced sometime early next week, days before the budget itself will be debated on the House floor.” (Times-Picayune, 5/2/13)
“Legislators involved in putting together the new plan said it will include shedding tax exemptions, making spending cuts and revamping the budget making process. The plan would need enough support to overturn the governor’s possible veto of eliminating tax exemptions that reduce state government revenue.” (The Advocate, 5/2/13)
Which email evidences the battle-lines which has become obvious and even more public by attorney, conservative blogger and profound-Jindal critic, C.B. Forgotston who recently blasted:
In response to a “whisper campaign” against him by the Republican leadership he wrote“
Hi-jacking of the GOP
“…Based on the feedback from Republicans from across the state as well as the positions you have taken on issues before the legislature, I have concluded that you must have hi-jacked the Louisiana Republican Party and are using it to further your own agenda”
Now, that I have admitted to being a nutty, lying, liberal, drunk, I feel much better. At least you didn’t say that I haven’t been good to my mother.”
Budget battles within the party is not new. There have been prior gunfights in the streets. Former House Speaker Jim Tucker and Jindal often sparred. This act of “feeling his own oats” is the first open breach between Kleckley and the governor.
However, this year and this clash is different. Governor Jindal’s popularity is at the lowest in his political history, lower than that “evil-spirt” from the White House, President Obama. Jindal is term-limited and being viewed by a growing number of politicos and legislators as being “lame ducked”.
Worse, many party members are finally at arms. They have grown weary of the nationally-controlled agendas mandated by the voices above, who know and care little of the Louisiana territory but who have had willing and ambitious local allies carrying out their political causes. They are ready for the fight and are even willing to join forces in a stranger-than-fiction compromise with enemy Democratic Party forces to fight a common foe—the governor and his proud band of “yes” men.
This time, the Corral is not OK. Purist conservatives and their new fellow gun mates smell blood. The sun beats down on the legislative town and nerves are more than fragile. Indeed, budget High noon is now approaching. The talk is how much of republican-red blood will be spilled on the sand and who will emerge as the victors--the guys who have been calling the shots over the years or their former foot-soldiers who are growing stronger and more strident as the days grow long.
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