Monday, March 12, 2012

Play Ball! An opening day manifesto.

Today is the opening day of the 2012 Louisiana Legislative session.

This is the Louisiana we see.

1) The Governor’s so-called solutions to the state’s challenges are not about Louisiana; they are about his burning ambition to become the Republican nominee for President in 2016. Louisiana needs fixing, but we need real solutions that respond to the real needs of our state — not ideologically driven plans designed to raise your profile while driving down our state. “Hey Bobby, Stop Running for President on Our Backs!”

2) The Governor is calling on legislators to violate the Louisiana Constitution not once, but twice, just two months after taking an oath to uphold it. He wants legislators to ratify a decision rammed through the Board of Elementary & Secondary Education last month that would provide Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funding for voucher students. This move violates Article VII, Section 13 of the Louisiana Constitution restricts the spending of MFP dollars to the support of public education. The Louisiana Constitution binds the government to honor the retirement commitments made to teachers, policemen, firefighters, and other public employees. Governor Jindal wants legislators to break those promises and to violate Article 10 Section 29 of the Louisiana Constitution. Hey Bobby, The Constitution Matters! Hands off the MFP and state worker retirements!

3) In every fiscal year that Bobby Jindal has been governor, the budget numbers endorsed by the administration during the session have not made it through the end of the calendar year, forcing mid-year budget cuts on the usual victims — higher education and healthcare. This year will be no different. This year the smoke and mirrors have smoke and mirrors. The first time the administration missed on the budget might have been an accident, the second time was on purpose, and now doctoring the budget numbers is a bad habit. The administration’s budget manipulation concentrates budget powers in its hands, beyond the reach of legislators. After four years of these sleights of hand, higher education has been decimated, healthcare providers are being choked, and essential health and mental health services are being eliminated. “Hey Bobby, your budget is a lie and people will die!”

4) The Governor and his minions says that the cuts are necessary because of tough times. That’s a lie! The governor says our economy is growing yet we can’t fund essential services. The real problem is that the Governor and the Legislature have given an unprecedented wave of tax exemptions to corporations and cut the highest rates on personal income taxes. These policies have benefited the most powerful interests in our state while forcing budget cuts that harm those who rely on state services. These are not cuts of necessity but are instead conscious choices of the Governor to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. “Hey Bobby! Stop the phony crisis; make your cronies pay!”

5) Since 1994, Louisiana has exempted severance tax payments on oil and gas obtained using directional drilling and fracking. This exemption alone has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in severance tax revenue that it otherwise would have gotten on natural gas produced in the Haynesville Trend in Northwest Louisiana — THE MOST PRODUCTIVE shale gas field in the United States. Severance taxes are the social contract between the people of this state and the energy companies that want access to our mineral resources. Denying the state severance tax revenues on that mineral wealth breaks the social contract. To deny us access to those severance tax revenues demonstrates (as did the BP Gulf Gusher) that the interests of the oil and gas industry and those of our state are not the same — and that, given a choice, the Jindal administration regularly sides with the industry against the people. “Hey Bobby! Which side are you on? LOGA’s or the people’s?"

6) The Governor says he wants to ‘reform’ the state employee retirement system. That’s a lie! He wants to tax state workers to fund his privatization schemes. The Governor says state employees should pay more of their wages to support their retirement. But, the Governor’s plan would not put that money into the retirement funds. No, he wants to put that additional money into the state General Fund to pay for things like privatizing state prisons, mental facilities and Medicaid services. “Hey Bobby! Tax the people who can afford it; leave state workers alone!”

7) The Governor says he values teachers and public education. That’s a lie! His voucher plan (even if constitutional) does not include even basic accountability for the billions in state tax dollars that will pour into the hundreds of new schools that would sprout up to tap this flush revenue stream. Parents will not have the tools needed to evaluate the quality of the private schools that they might want to use the voucher money to send their kids to attend. Vouchers and the attacks on teacher tenure are justified under the guise of accountability but the governor refuses to apply accountability to those who would receive the money as a result of his unconstitutional plan. “Hey Bobby! You’re a Hypocrite! Accountability for all — including you!”

8) Once again, the Governor wants to sell and/or privatize the operation of state prisons. This is a profoundly immoral proposal in this state with the highest per capita incarceration rate in the United States. The Governor would turn over Louisiana citizens — 70% of which are jailed for non-violent crimes — to the GEO Group, CCA or any other contributors to his campaigns and to the Louisiana Republican Party. He would sign long-term contracts with those companies to keep those jails filled. This is nothing less than human trafficking! Prisoners are humans. They are our brothers and sisters. We owe it to ourselves to do more than just warehouse them. Jindal has no policy in mind; it’s all about an ideological preference for privatization, mixed in with taking care of the people who support his campaigns and his party. “Hey Bobby! Don’t sell our prisons or our prisoners! Keep Louisiana out of the human trafficking business. ”

9) The Governor’s supporter Boysie Bollinger wants the right to take water from the Toledo Bend Reservoir (owned by the state) and sell it to Texas. Supposedly he wants to sell it to communities. Selling millions of gallons of water on a no-bid contract during worsening drought conditions in Texas and western Louisiana makes no sense. It would drop the water levels in Toledo Bend by at least a couple of feet, which would impact its value as a tourism and recreation destination — a vital business in the poor western parishes of the state. “Hey Bobby! We want clean air and clean water, for our sons and our daughters!”

10) Finally, the Governor and his allies want legislators to hurriedly rubber stamp his reckless, hastily conceived proposals. The Legislature is a coequal branch of government. The Governor can propose but legislators must decide. Bobby Jindal will be long gone before the impact of these proposals is fully clear. Legislators who are being asked now to defer to his judgment will be left holding the bag when the contents of it hits the fan. “Hey Legislators! Do Your Jobs! Think don’t follow!”
Source:  L.A.J.U.I.C.E.

Mission:  To change the political conversation in Louisiana by engaging the Jindal administration and its allies in an asymmetrical conversation during the 2012 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature.

LAJUICE is the place for you! Bobby Jindal has proposed a radical series of proposals that would wreck public education, put essential state responsibilities in the hands of private corporations, turn the Louisiana budget into a revenue machine for private companies while gutting state services, and continue the massive wealth transference from Louisiana's middle class to the wealthiest families and corporations in our state. We recognize that these initiatives are not about what is best for Louisiana but what will best position Jindal to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

Jindal will be long gone before the ruinous impact of his policies becomes fully evident. We will be left to clean up the mess.

We must resist and we must stop him now. We can do that by standing together to resist his divide and conquer approach to securing the victories he seeks by standing together and delivering a resounding "NO!"

Jindal was re-elected by winning a majority of one of the smallest turnout elections in our state's history. He was given no mandate to wreck our state! Whatever mandate he thinks he has, we are urging our fellow citizens to stand together and take it back!

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