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Quick take: Scapegoating over impotence

bobby_jindalIn this piece by one of my favorite Louisiana journalists, legislators continue to lay all the blame for Louisiana’s fiscal mess at the feet of our illustrious former governor.

Criticism of Jindal is bipartisan and widespread, with irritated lawmakers left sifting through the highly-unpopular choices of raising taxes or taking a hatchet to higher education and government services.

In doing so, they seem to have decided that it’s easier to pile on a scapegoat rather than profess to their own impotence as a branch of state government. Legislators who held office in the previous two terms had ample opportunity to, well, lead. But the truth is, they chose not to, and their constituents – we, the voters – acquiesced, as well. Experts pointed out in 2008 that we were beginning to go in the wrong direction with tax policy, but our legislators ignored this sage advice, preferring to score political points for cutting taxes with the Stelly repeal.

Lawmakers went along at the time, rather than buck Jindal in a state with a powerful governor who can retaliate by eliminating local construction projects and strip items from the budget with a line-item veto. No lawmakers defend Jindal now that he’s gone, and some who acquiesced to the budgeting tactics now acknowledge their own culpability.

“We may have offered some critiques and some criticisms, but we went along with it anyway,” said Senate Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur, a Democrat.

Our legislators should admit, like Senator LaFleur, that they share in the blame for our current crisis, and stop blaming and start leading for the sake of their constituents and our state. I suppose they could argue impotence in that our constitution does not explicitly state that our three branches of state government are co-equal, and they’d have a good point there. But I might come back with these words from article III, section 16:

[N]o money shall be withdrawn from the state treasury except through specific appropriation…[and] all bills for raising revenue or appropriating money shall originate in the House of Representatives.

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