I went to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s press conference today at Handelman’s on Dryades Street, where he announced the signing of Act 775, the so-called “No Wrong Door” law. The act sounds like a good thing. It aims to cluster state social services agencies under one roof so that people in need of such services don’t have to run all over town trying to get help. The concept started in Louisville, KY, as “The Neighborhood Place.”
Some of us couldn’t help but notice the irony, however, of Jindal coming to Central City to ballyhoo the signing of a social services law a few blocks away from the Dryades YMCA — practically in the shadow of the Y, in fact. Jindal vetoed two legislative appropriations for the Dryades YMCA in the past two weeks — roughly $1.15 million worth. Why?
After the ceremony, Paul Murphy of WWL-TV asked Jindal about his veto of the Dryades Y, which has been a neighborhood place for decades. He answered that lots of good programs got cut and that a veto doesn’t necessarily mean that he thinks a program or nonprofit is unworthy. He added that the worthy ones “may have to be supported by people … rather than government.” He put the Dryades YMCA in that category.
He also mentioned his “objective criteria” that NGOs had to meet to stay in the budget. Yet, his veto message for those NGOs that were cut (including the Dryades Y) was boilerplate: “This is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) funding request which did not meet the criteria established in my letter of April 30, 2008.”
Jindal’s letter of April 30, 2008, sets forth four such criteria. Quoting from the letter, “The project
• Must have statewide or substantial regional impact;
• Must have been presented/openly discussed during the legislative session;
• Must be a state agency priority; and
• Must have the proper disclosure form published online prior to consideration for funding (consistent with information provided in the House disclosure form).”
So I asked Jindal, “Which specific criteria did the Dryades Y fail to satisfy?”
His response: “You’ll have to check with the Division about that.”
The “division” is the Division of Administration, headed by his top appointee, Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, who effectively serves as the governor’s top budget officer. Davis, who is well respected by lawmakers from her days as Mitch Landrieu’s top assistant, was certainly in on the discussions of what should and should not be vetoed. But, for Jindal to pawn off any explanation of his veto to her when he clearly is the one with constitutionally granted line item veto authority is a copout — particularly after he basked in the glow of his “record” 258 line item vetoes.
So, to sum up, the governor has no problem vetoing a decades-old institution that takes kids off some of the most dangerous streets in America. He just can’t say why.
Here’s the double irony: He was in the neighborhood to promote a new law that supposedly won’t give needy citizens the official run-around.