Jindal's Broken Promise

Last August, in his campaign materials, then-candidate Bobby Jindal promised voters that he would, as governor, "prohibit Legislators from giving themselves pay raises that take effect before the subsequent election." Now, Jindal promises lawmakers not to veto a bill more than doubling their salaries. "I will keep my pledge to let them govern themselves and make their own decisions as a separate branch of government," Jindal said (in a press release) last week. Jindal's latest pronouncement stands in stark contrast to his pledge to voters on page five of his 2007 spending platform, titled 'Government Reform: Controlling Runaway State Spending" (http://www.bobbyjindal.com/downloads/Jindal_Spending.pdf). The administration's current line is that Jindal's earlier promise to 'prohibit legislators from giving themselves pay raises" does not necessarily mean a veto of the legislative raises. So far, no one seems to be buying that line.

Jindal cannot simply punt to the Legislature on this one, says C.B. Forgotston, a Hammond attorney and former chief counsel for the budget-drafting House Appropriations Committee. Forgotston, who disseminated Jindal's 2007 campaign literature last week via email, writes on his blog (www.forgotston.com) that the governor "says that he is keeping his word to 76 politicians (who voted for the pay raise), but is breaking his word to over 2 million voters and citizens of Louisiana." — Alford

His Next Broken Promise?

Will breaking promises get to be a habit with Gov. Bobby Jindal? His next chance to keep or break a key campaign promise could be deciding whether to veto a bill that would expand gambling in Louisiana. Last Thursday (June 19), the state Senate gave final approval to a bill that would allow a new horseracing track in Iberville Parish " with slot machines as part of the equation, of course. House Bill 937 by Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Plaquemine, calls for a local referendum on the track as well as the attendant forms of gambling (pari-mutuel, off-track and slots) " but first it requires the governor's signature. The main promoter of the bill is businessman and longtime Edwin Edwards supporter Billy Trotter, former owner (with Louisiana newspaper magnate and close EWE pal B.I. Moody) of Evangeline Downs in St. Landry Parish. Trotter got the first slots-at-the-track bill passed for Evangeline Downs during Mike Foster's term as governor and then sold the track for mega-millions. Now, he apparently wants to do the same for a yet-to-be-built track in Iberville Parish. Jindal's campaign finance reports show that William Trotter of Lafayette donated $5,000 to the governor's campaign last August. Meanwhile, sources say Foster has helped Trotter behind the scenes with the proposed Iberville Parish racino " including efforts to convince Jindal not to veto HB 937. However, the same day that HB 937 passed the Senate, Jindal press secretary Melissa Sellers said he would veto it. If that proves true, then the underlying political question will be, did he break a promise to Foster/Trotter? — DuBos

Energy-Producing Parishes Could Become Flush

Voters may soon decide whether the state should triple the amount of money each parish receives for producing oil and natural gas. According to the Louisiana Constitution, energy-producing parishes can keep 20 percent of the severance taxes they generate from oil and gas production, with an annual cap of $850,000. A proposed constitutional amendment by Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, would raise the cap to $2.85 million. House Bill 420 stipulates that at least half of the increase must be directed to transportation needs. Because the bill is a constitutional amendment, it will require voter approval but not gubernatorial approval, which is fortunate for Gallot. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal promised lawmakers earlier in the session that he would veto any bill that dedicates state tax dollars in any new way. According to an analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Office, the constitutional amendment could mean a combined boost of $47 million a year for 30 parishes — but only the top 18 producers are likely to see the full benefit. The proposed constitutional amendment is scheduled to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. If approved by voters, it would take effect July 1, 2009. — Alford

House Peels Shrimp Fees

After more than a month of waiting, the House last week overwhelmingly refused to renew a series of fees on shrimpers. The Legislature first established the fees in 2005 at the industry's request to help pay for Louisiana's share of an international trade petition filed by the Southern Shrimp Alliance. The move was intended to address illegal 'dumping" of foreign shrimp below the cost of production. The results of the landmark trade action, however, have been disappointing. Some countries have been able to dodge tariffs, and some local fishermen have been issued relief checks only to be told they need to be returned. Rep. Ernest Wooton, R-Belle Chasse, told lawmakers that his House Bill 1200 would keep the fees — and the industry — afloat. Rep. Jerry 'Truck" Gisclair, D-Raceland, countered by saying many shrimpers consider the trade actions closed and don't want money going to an organization to which they do not belong. 'I have spoken to several shrimpers, and they don't want to pay any more than they have to," Gisclair said. GOP Rep. Joe Harrison of Napoleonville said shrimpers in his district want more money put into marketing. 'Thank you for your misinformation," Wooton replied, adding that the votes against his bill spelled certain 'death for the industry." _ Alford