For a prime example of a politically popular program that embraces a fundamental flaw in Louisiana government, consider state supplemental pay for peace officers.
Paying police, deputies and troopers more is an admirable goal. But by means of supplemental pay? The political candidates pushing that idea have apparently not given any thought to the problem created when the state pays local officers part of their salaries.
The latest pursuer of short-term political gain is U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, running for governor in the Oct. 12 primary.
Before the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, Abraham made funding promises that one might expect — raising the payment for housing state prisoners in local jails and increasing the supplemental pay that deputies receive.
And as one might expect in no-pain, all-gain politics, the congressman declined to say what he’d cut to make room for such liberal promises. “The money is there (in the budget),” he told the sheriffs. “There are pots of money that nobody’s talking about that can be used.” He refused to elaborate to reporters later.
If it’s that easy, why not say specifically what they are?
Of course, if candidates with empty promises were rejected automatically, the State Capitol would be almost vacant.
What is worse is that Abraham clearly has not thought deeply about the supplemental pay program. Popular as it is, it remains a monument to Huey P. Long-style government. Instead of local revenues paying for law enforcement at the city or parish level, the state chips in to the tune of millions.
That program pays a part of the check for city police and sheriff’s deputies, but also harbor police, bridge police, airport police — and almost anybody with a badge who has lined up for the state benefit.
We support paying officers more. But it ought to be done the right way, with local voters — who can judge if sheriffs and police chiefs are doing a good job with their money — passing judgment on taxes for these very local needs.
It is just one segment of the Huey system, in which local politicians — sheriffs, mayors and so on — slough off their responsibilities to pay their own bills by making the case to their own voters for revenues. Instead, they go to the State Capitol and kowtow to governors and legislators, who in turn enjoy being the political benefactors of the underlings with badges or local offices.
This is not political rocket science. Good-government groups for generations have pointed out these problems. And a Republican congressman, and candidate for governor, is endorsing the Huey system? Makes no sense to us.