For Gov. Bobby Jindal, it was important enough to keep his traveling detail of troopers on the state payroll that he vetoed a line in the state budget that would have cut that appropriation.
The good news, for Jindal, is that his campaign fund does not have to pay for the costs of his security. But some lawmakers were upset that the state’s budget is short more than $2 million for Jindal’s frequent flying to Iowa, New Hampshire and other political venues.
The Louisiana fracas drew the attention of Governing magazine and thus a look into how other states view the same sort of problems that the Jindal security detail represents.
In few states is there such an imperial governorship as that in Louisiana, but the impulse to “borrow” staff from other agencies is widespread.
That offloads the costs from the governor’s office to other agencies. An audit in Missouri found that 14 agencies had been hit up for all or part of the travel tabs of six aides to Gov. Jay Nixon. “As a result, the governor’s office has significantly under-reported the true costs of operating the office,” the auditors said.
The problem for good-government groups is that the “detail” of other staffers to the governor can result in distortions in the budget. “It doesn’t make a difference to the bottom line, but it does make a difference in terms of transparency,” Steven Procopio, of Louisiana’s Public Affairs Research Council, told Governing. “You want a budget that reflects the priorities of the state.”
One of the governor’s priorities is his security detail, even if it is difficult to see that as a justifiable expense when he campaigns for president.
The governor has defended himself against charges of dereliction of duty during his frequent travels by saying he is constantly in touch in these days of cellphones and email.
But why does he need a State Police detail on duty all the time in Iowa or New Hampshire?
And as to transparency, never a hallmark of Jindal’s administration, the governor vetoed the restriction on his travel detail by noting that the Legislature’s provision reduces the “budget flexibility” of State Police. That it did. It’s a shame that the governor had the power to act so shamelessly in his own interests, with your tax dollars.