I went to Gov. Bobby Jindals press conference today at Handelmans 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 dont have to run all over town trying to get help. The concept started in Louisville, KY, as The Neighborhood Place.
Some of us couldnt 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 doesnt 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.
Jindals 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: Youll 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 governors top budget officer. Davis, who is well respected by lawmakers from her days as Mitch Landrieus 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 cant say why.
Heres the double irony: He was in the neighborhood to promote a new law that supposedly wont give needy citizens the official run-around.