Gov. Bobby Jindal used his veto power Friday to eliminate efforts by the Louisiana Legislature to keep tabs on whether health-care and other administration programs are performing.
Jindal excised 16 items from the $25 billion state budget for the fiscal year that began Friday.
Three provisions stripped from the budget measure — House Bill 1 — involved legislative oversight of his initiatives. Jindal wrote in his veto messages that legislative involvement could delay one program’s implementation and remove flexibility of the state health agency to institute changes in two other instances.
The governor also vetoed other bills, striking down measures that would give legislators the ability to end Jindal’s health-care experiment in 2014.
The administration’s “coordinated care networks” would use state money to pay private insurance companies, and other entities, to provide the medical needs for two-thirds of the state’s 1.2 million Medicaid recipients.
“Inserting a termination date for this important reform and preventing Louisiana from improving the performance of outcomes in our current Medicaid system sends the wrong message,” Jindal stated in his veto of Senate Bill 207.
Legislative leaders said they were disappointed in Jindal’s actions to restrict legislative oversight of executive branch activities in both HB1 and SB207.
State Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, said, “I’m somewhat surprised he would veto those things because the more oversight you have in government, the better taxpayer interests are going to be served.” Lambert is vice chairman of the House Appropriations committee.
“The governor is not too keen on legislative oversight,” said state Sen. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport, vice chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee.
“I’ve been a proponent that the Legislature needed to exercise a little more independence in budgeting. Maybe these vetoes will be the kick in the pants for us to exert ourselves a little more,” Jackson said Friday.
SB207 was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature. The Louisiana Hospital Association, the Louisiana State Medical Society and the New Orleans Metropolitan Hospital Council had encouraged Jindal to sign the bill.
SB207 sponsor state Sen. Willie Mount, D-Lake Charles, said Friday she was disappointed in Jindal’s veto.
“This is a significant change in the way we are offering health care,” said Mount, who chairs the Senate health committee. “We should be an active and engaged partner so we can see that we have improved health outcomes and that it is cost-effective.”
The Jindal administration is evaluating the proposals of a dozen private entities — 10 of them insurance companies — that would establish networks of physicians, hospitals and other health-care providers to which Medicaid recipients would enroll. The idea is to cut costs and improve health by better coordinating care.
Jindal listed a variety of reasons for his vetoes on the HB1 budget bill.
The governor struck three appropriations, stating in each case: “This item is a contingency.”
House budget leaders had complained earlier this year that Jindal’s original budget proposal included “contingencies,” such as the sale of three state prisons, that would have required legislative approval before the funds could be realized. In his veto messages, Jindal cited the constitutional prohibition against “contingency” funds in the budget bill.
Lambert said Jindal apparently had “a different outlook” when considering vetoes, than the governor had when drafting the budget.
One of Jindal’s vetoes eliminated $27 million to help fully fund the state’s need-based college financial aid program, GO Grants, and the Louisiana Early Start Program.
Jindal said the money is dependent on approval of a constitutional amendment to set aside more money for the merit-based TOPS scholarships.
Jackson said Jindal’s proposed a budget from TOPS contingent voters approving the constitutional amendment but he eliminated contingency funds for students in financial need.
“TOPS will actually be over-funded in this budget” if the constitutional amendment wins voter approval, Jackson said.
Jindal supports college tuition increases but not increasing needs-based financial aid for those same students, she said.
In one instance, Jindal said in his budget bill veto message that legislative involvement could delay implementation of a program that creates a system of care for youth who have behavioral health problems that put them at risk of being institutionalized.
The budget bill language vetoed would have required the state health agency to submit a report providing details of the programs structure, service delivery provisions, population served and estimated cost for budget committee review at least 30 days before the contract would be awarded.
Jordan Blum of The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau contributed to this report.