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Story Archives: Jindal's moment has arrived
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|Jindal's moment has arrived|
Shortly after Bobby Jindal takes the oath of office Monday at the state capitol in Baton Rouge to assume his duties as governor of Louisiana, he will deliver the most important speech of his career in politics thus far.
His inaugural speech is important in light of the simple distinction that he will speak to the people as governor instead of communicating as a candidate.
What difference does that make?
For the first time, Jindal's remarks will carry the weight that only a governor can deliver as the state's chief executive. As a candidate, Jindal made promises, which were delivered by a politico who was trying to convince the electorate he was more sincere than the scores of office seekers who preceded him.
Promises are broken.
It occurs every day in politics.
What else would you expect from an aspiring politician?
A governor, though, is expected to deliver.
He's expected to lead.
From most accounts, the people of Louisiana are yearning for a leader. We haven't had one in quite some time, or at least in the past four years.
Thus, the remarks Jindal makes in his inaugural speech must be ideas or plans of action that he feels with a great deal of certainty in his heart he can deliver once his administration goes to work in earnest.
That might not sit well with some of the do-gooders among us. They seem to believe Jindal can wave a magic wand and transform Louisiana into a shining example of how government can and must work for the people.
Pardon the abuse of the Queen's English, but that ain't going to happen overnight.
At the very least, we should expect Jindal's inaugural speech to touch on two special sessions of the Legislature that he has indicated he will call before the Regular Session of the Legislature convenes in the spring.
One session will deal with ethics reform.
Ethics reform was the focal point of Jindal's gubernatorial campaign.
He says we need ethics reform in Louisiana. He says we need it to convince America that all is not bad and crooked in the Sportsman's Paradise.
Jindal won't hear any arguments against ethics reform in this corner, but he would do well to remind himself that passing legislation aimed at cleaning up Louisiana's storied history of corruption in government would serve as a drop in a bucket, so to speak, in cleaning up the state's image nationwide.
It also would serve as minor step forward in convincing the people that it is not okay to manipulate the system to line one's pocket with money at the expense of the taxpayers.
That chore will take generations to accomplish.
Meanwhile, the other special session Jindal is expected to call will deal with money.
More specific, it will deal with the people's money.
At the present time, state revenue officials tell us a $1-billion budget surplus exists from the 2006-07 fiscal year. That money was recognized after the state closed the books on the fiscal year in question.
The $1 billion can be spent on one-time expenses such as infrastructure projects and retiring the state's burdensome debt.
Yet, there's another $1.4 billion floating around the capitol.
Revenue officials describe that money simply as excess revenues.
Here's where it gets a bit tricky.
Roughly one-half of the $1.4 billion is additional revenues officials say the state has on its hands in the current fiscal year. The other half is revenue which officials claim will be available for the Legislature to budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year.
The special session Jindal plans to call on the money front will center on what to do with the $1 billion, or the money that's left over from the 2006-07 fiscal year.
While it's likely the Legislature has grand plans for the $1 billion, Jindal should tow the line and force lawmakers to make a substantial payment on the state's debt. That would be the prudent and wise move to make.
Before we get antsy over what to do with the $1.4 billion that may or may not exist in the current fiscal year and beyond, let's remind ourselves of the mess outgoing Gov. Kathleen Blanco and some members of the Legislature left behind for Jindal and company to tackle.
In a rush in the 2007 Regular Session to spend every penny at their disposal to please every Tom, Dick or Harry from one end of the state to the other, Blanco and her lackeys in the Legislature used some $800 million in one-time revenues on recurring expenses. In other words, they spent money that's not certain to be available in the future on expenses that won't go away.
That's a no-no.
That no-no is real, though.
And Jindal and the new Legislature will have to deal with it.
They most likely will deal with it by using some of the $1.4 billion -- which may or may not exist -- to plug an $800-million hole in the budget that Blanco and her minions created.
Yes, Jindal's moment has arrived.
He "officially" will get a taste of it Monday.
Let's ask him in six months whether he still wants it.
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