Friday, 03 June 2011 17:18

Jindal's Conservative Credentials Tested By Louisiana House Speaker Tucker, Rep. Geymann

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JindalSince the House passed HB1 with less spending than Gov. Jindal wanted, a strange rhetorical tone has emerged from the 4th floor in the Capitol:

The Jindal Administration is defending government.

That's right, since the House passed a spending bill with over $200m less in spending than Jindal had requested, Bobby's minions have fiercely angling to restore this funding. Obviously, this runs headlong into Jindal's carefully crafted "fiscal conservative" fascade:

The governor said the House went too far in making cuts. He wants the Senate to restore funding to cover the more than $230 million the House removed.

That kind of talk has prompted Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, a fellow Republican, to question whether Jindal is as much of a fiscal conservative as he repeatedly claims, or if he is "Jindal the populist."

Those are fighting words. The last Republican Governor (and potential presidential candidate) that they called a "populist" was Gov. Mike Huckabee. And he was harshly derided by conservative activists on his economic platform. Eviserated would be the more appropriate word.

Much of the issue is the enactment of the "Geymann rule," a measure that makes it very difficult (or nearly impossible) to use "one-time" money to plug budget holes:

The rule was adopted on a 60-42 vote over objections from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, and complicates the prospects for passage of the $25 billion state operating budget.

State Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, said House Resolution 27 was designed to curb the state's "addiction" to spending one-time money -- such as cash from the sale of prisons -- on ongoing state government operations. The practice is common in state government, albeit one that's long been derided by fiscal conservatives including Jindal.

Lawmakers can still spend one-time money with a majority vote, but only if the amount of such spending doesn't exceed the projected growth in state revenue.

While the rule is in place in the House, the Senate may ignore it and will likely do so. But to what degree, it's not clear. And herein lies Jindal's problem.

Either he sides with his Ideology, and agrees with ever smaller government. Or, he argues for spending more money, revealing his soft-populist underside to the conservative jackles in the tea bag krewe. And it looks like he's made a choice:

The House eliminated $122 million in Department of Health and Hospitals total state funding which, when coupled with federal matching funds, could have produced more than $300 million. Jindal also is unhappy with a House rule implemented this year that restricts the amount of one-time money used to balance the budget.

The [Geymann] rule prevented the use of some one-time funds the administration wants to spend.

On the House floor Thursday night during consideration of HB1, Tucker strongly argued for retaining the rule.

"To suspend this rule eliminates any pretense that you can run as a fiscal conservative," Tucker told House members.

by Lamar Palmentel, Publisher of The Daily Kingfish


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